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is quite possible to take a walk in the 
country, through the most beautiful 
scenery, in lovely weather, with every- 
thing to conduce to our enjoyment and 
invigoration of spirit, and yet to return feeling bored 
and weary, and half inclined to say how dull the 
country is ! That is one side of the picture. 

On the other hand I have known young people 
come back from a ramble in a quiet and rather 
unpromising country lane, their faces beaming with 
pleasure, and their hands filled with an odd collec- 
tion of specimens, leaves, mosses, stones, anything 
in fact which had taken their fancy as curious or 
interesting. Then eager questions are poured forth 
with bewildering rapidity, and it is easy to see that 
keen enjoyment has been derived from even this 
commonplace little stroll. May I point out that the 
difference between these two results simply arose 
from acquiring or not acquiring the habit of seeing 
intelligently what lies around us? If we pass every- 
thing by with our mental eyes shut, our physical 
eyes observe nothing. 

s preface 

I am going to take for granted that a large number 
of my readers belong to the former class, that they 
are intelligent observers, and yet are in need of a 
guide to help them to understand the thousand and 
one things that they may see in a country walk. 

The curious objects in hedges, trees, and fields all 
have a purpose and a meaning, but very often these 
need interpretation for those who never have had 
the opportunity of acquiring facts in natural history. 

The practice of putting down the results of each 
day's ramble, making notes of things seen or 
obtained, the first appearances of birds and insects, 
the flowering of trees and plants, will result in the 
course of a few months in a record possessing a 
certain value. We can thus compare one year with 
another, and note the differences in each, and the 
effect of temperature in hastening or retarding the 
appearance of flowers and insects, and the arrival 
of migratory birds. 

The remarks I shall endeavour to make upon all 
these and other points will be the result of my own 
actual observations, made from day to day and noted 
down at once, so that any readers who may like to 
follow this plan can do so with ease, if they happen 
to live in the country or have access to it from time 
to time. 

The first appearances of birds, insects, and flowers 
may vary somewhat as to date, according to the 
mildness or severity of the winter, so that I cannot 
promise that every object that I write about will 

preface 9 

be found upon the same day in the following year, 
but probably within a short period, earlier or later, 
each object will be discovered. 

It need not be thought that one must be far away 
from cities in order to learn about nature. I live 
only twelve miles from Charing Cross, and yet I find 
abundant subjects for study in my own place and the 
adjacent common. I think it is especially interesting 
to try and find treasures in most unlikely localities. 

Having on one occasion to wait a whole hour 
on a pouring wet day at Bedford railway station, 
I determined to see if I could collect anything 
to while away the time. Things looked very un- 
promising outside the station ; new houses in the 
act of being built, heaps of sand and mortar, and 
plenty of mud everywhere, seemed hopeless enough ; 
but a bare patch of common, across which ran a 
newly gravelled road, caught my eye ; there might 
be possibilities in the gravel, so I made my way to 
the new road, and before long I had the pleasure of 
finding there several rare fossils, pieces of chalcedony 
and jasper, a shell impression, and sundry other 
treasures ; so, in spite of rain and wind, my waiting 
hour passed, not only without weariness, but in 
positive enjoyment. 

I believe I have heard of as many as fifty species 
of wild flowers being found in a single field, and 
a well-known scientist discovered an equal number 
of wild plants in a piece of waste ground in the 
outskirts of a large town. 

io {preface 

It is a little discouraging to begin our natural 
history diary in January, just when all animal and 
plant life seem asleep for the winter ; but perhaps 
we shall find to our surprise that there is hardly a 
day in the blankest season of the year, which will 
not afford us some sources of interest and much 
that will lead to pleasant thought and study. The 
limits of space will not admit of a daily ramble, and 
bad weather sometimes hinders outdoor study ; so, 
for a little variety, I have sometimes discoursed upon 
objects taken from my own museum. 







MAY 81 

JUNE 97 

JULY 115 






Xist of Slluatratkme 


INT 'THE GROVE' GARDEN Frontispiece 


































14 Xist of Sllustrations 




YEW BERRIES ........... 63 




HUMBLE-BEE FLY .......... 75 

















FLAX 107 









TEASEL HEAD . . . 124 












Xist of Jllustrations 15 














































16 !&tet of Sllustrations 













To him who in the love of Nature holds 
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks 
A various language ; for his gayer hours 
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile 
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides 
Into his darker musings with a mild 
And healing sympathy, that steals away 
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.' 


Rambles with Nature Students 


' My heart is awed within me, when I think 

Of the great miracle that still goes on 

In silence round me the perpetual work 

Of Thy creation, finished, yet renewed 
For ever. Written on Thy works, I read 

The lesson of Thine own eternity.' 



JLTHOUGH the weather is very cold, 
I see a quantity of little hardy flies 
upon the window-pane. Apparently 
they are unaffected by a temperature 
which paralyses almost all other insects in the depth 
of winter. 

This special little fly, Pteronialus> has a very curious 
life-history ; for it lays its eggs in living caterpillars, 
chrysalides, or hybcrnating bluebottle flies. The 
eggs hatch into very minute grubs, which feed upon, 
but do not kill, the unfortunate insect until they are 
full grown, when they emerge from the creature they 
have preyed upon, turn into tiny chrysalides, and 
in due time appear as peifect flies. They are so 
excessively small that they can creep through a mere 



tRambles wttb IRature Students 

crevice at the back of a picture-frame and make 
their way under the glass. Thus I have frequently 
found thirty or forty of them spread over the inner 
surface of some valuable print, and there was no 

Natural size. 


getting at them but by removing the picture and 
refraining it. 

These flies perform a very useful office in reducing 
the number of caterpillars and other noxious insects 
which would otherwise abound in our gardens. 


We are constantly hearing the brown owl's hoot, 
both in the daytime and in the dusk, and occasionally 
I see it and the white barn owl flitting across the 
lawn in the twilight. 

These birds are of essential value in ridding the 
land of mice ; they are like winged cats always on 
the watch for their prey, and very successful they 
are in catching, not only mice but young rats, 
sparrows, and beetles. 

Owls like to roost on certain trees which afford 
them a thick covert during the day, and beneath 

January 21 

those trees I often find large grey pellets, consisting 
of the fur and bones of rats and mice, which it is 
the habit of the owls, as they cannot digest them, 
to reject each morning after their nightly feast. 
When owls are kept as pets, their raw meat diet 
should include a mixture of small feathers, or fur 
of some kind, else the birds will not continue in a 
healthy state. The frequent occurrence in their 
pellets of the wing cases of the dark-blue dung- 
beetle shows that this is a favourite article of diet 
with the owls. 

In order to ascertain the number of mice and 
other rodents destroyed by these useful birds, seven 
hundred and six pellets of the barn owl were care- 
fully examined, and in them were found the remains 
of sixteen bats, three rats, two hundred and ninety- 
three voles or field mice, 
one thousand five hundred 
and ninety shrews and 
twenty-two small birds. We 
thus see that without their 
aid the farmer would find 
it very difficult to save his 

r . . , OWL PELLET. 

crops trom devastation, and 

that these useful birds should be protected and 

encouraged by every means in our power. 

A few years ago, when the crops in Southern 
Scotland were threatened with complete destruc- 
tion by field mice or voles, great flocks of owls 
appeared on the scene, and corrected a plague 
which human science had proved quite unable to 
deal with. 

22 IRambles witb IRature Students 


Now that the trees are leafless, we can readily 
observe the marks upon the branches called leaf- 
scars, which show where leaves have been. 

Some trees, such as the sycamore, the wayfaring 
tree, and others, have opposite leaves ; others produce 
them alternately or at varying distances and in a 
variety of ways ; the study of leaf position is known 
in botany as Phyllotaxis, and it is to the individual 
differences in bud-growth that we owe much of the 
beauty of our woods. 

Each tree has branches varying in form, in light- 


ness and density, and hence arises the exquisite 
play of light and shade which we cannot fail to 
admire when trees are grouped together. 

One curious fact about the horse-chestnut may 
easily be noted at this season. Amongst the smaller 
branching twigs some may be found which are almost 
exact counterparts of a horse's foot and leg. As 
shown in the illustration, there are the hoof and six 
or eight nail marks of the shoe, the fetlock joint 
and part of the leg. 

According to the angle at which the twig is 
growing will depend its resemblance to a fore or hind 
leg. There appear to be three suggested derivations 
of the name of this tree. The word ' horse ' is a 

January 23 

common prefix denoting anything large or coarse, 
such as horse-mushroom, horse-radish, horse-parsley ; 
and so it may have been applied to this tree, which 
grows vigorously and has large leaves. One writer, 
however, explains the name as being a corruption of 
the word ' harsh/ as the horse-chestnut fruit is harsh 
and austere, compared with the sweet chestnut with 
its eatable nuts. There remains the third deriva- 
tion, arising from the curious mimicry we find in 
the twigs and branches, which seem to be quite a 
likely reason for bestowing a name alluding to the 

A little ingenuity in neatly cutting and trimming 
the mimic horse's leg will result in a woodland 
curio which will surprise those who have never 
happened to notice the shapes which horse-chestnut 


Some Hornbeam trees are attacked by a kind 
of parasitic fungus (Exoascus carpini), which so 
seriously interferes with the flow of the sap that 
a multitude of small interlacing shoots are the result. 
These give to the tree in winter the effect of being 
laden with birds' nests. 

Each year these tufts increase in size, until the 
branches become weighed down with their unnatural 
burden. These ' witches' brooms,' as they are popu- 
larly called, occur also upon the birch and several 
species of pines, larches, and spruce firs. 

It is still, I believe, a moot question whether 
these unusual growths may not be the work of a 

Gambles with nature Students 


gall fly instead of a fungus ; and here is a field 
for the ingenuity of a young observer to exercise 
itself upon. 


Those who have access to a chalk-pit may like 
to know that the long slender flints so often to be 
found there are singularly resonant. 


If two flints are attached 
by a piece of string and 
struck against each other 
whilst held suspended in the 
air, they emit a sweet ringing 
sound al- 
most like 
that of a 

called ven- 
may also be 
chalk debris\ 
they are 
usually met 
with in two 
pieces, hav- 
ing snapped 
asunder at 
RESONANT FLINT, the narrow- 
est part ; but 

by putting the upper and 
lower halves together we 
may easily imagine how they 
looked when growing on 
some sea-shore countless 
ages ago. 

I pick up flint ventriculites 
in my garden amongst other 



26 iRambles witb IRature Stu&ents 

stones lying on the surface of the ground, and this 
fact, taken in connection with the existence of our 
rounded pebbles, shows that in early days the sea 
must have rolled over this part of Middlesex, although 
now it is the highest ground all round London. 

Another proof of this fact was afforded by oui 
finding a fossil crab, which was discovered about 
ten feet below the surface by some men who were 
digging a well. 


A piece of bark has fallen off an old gate-post, and 
has revealed some markings on the wood beneath. 
These I find are the work of a small beetle, which 


burrows under the bark of the ash tree and there lays 
her eggs. When the grubs come out each one lives 
and works in its own little tunnel, eating the wood as 

January 27 

it goes along until it is full grown and changes into 
a pupa and eventually into a perfect beetle, when it 
gnaws its way out, leaving a small round hole at the 
end of the tunnel. 

An allied species does grievous damage to elm 
timber ; whole forests are sometimes destroyed by 
this apparently insignificant insect. 

The beetle bores into the tree-stem, makes a central 
gallery, and from it she bores small side galleries with 
wonderful regularity side by side, and at the end of 
each of these alleys she lays an egg ; and when the 
larvae are hatched they gnaw the wood in a straight 
line, always enlarging the gallery as they themselves 
grow bigger, so that the result upon the wood is a 
curiously symmetrical pattern. 

Other beetles make curved galleries of intricate 
design, of which I have several specimens resembling 
delicate wood-carvings. 


' The sunbeams on the hedges lie, 
The south wind murmurs summer-soft ; 
The maids hang out white clothes to dry, 
Around the elder-skirted croft. 
A calm of pleasure listens round, 
While fancy dreams of summer sound, 
And quiet rapture fills the eye.' 


I. CLOTH MOTH (Tinea tafttzella). 2. FUR AND 
FEATHER MOTH ( Tinea pelliotulla). 3. CORK 
MOTH (Oinophila v. jlava). (Mitch magnified.) 



URING the past few years I have made 
the acquaintance of a great many 
members of the moth family. 

A small room built out of the con- 
servatory was found to be too damp for my daily 
use, and was for a while unused in consequence. 
I find that the moths have been having grand 
times there ; they found out some boxes of curious 
feathers, and reduced them to shreds and atoms ; 
they reared extensive families in the buffalo skin 
which carpets the floor ; a stuffed gazelle has 
afforded a delightful feeding-ground for another 
species. I find that a box of owl pellets is swarm- 
ing with Tineas ; in fact, nothing seems to have 

32 IRambles witb mature Stufcents 

come amiss to these little plagues. They can adapt 
themselves to digest every kind of material, and very 
diligently do they set to work to reduce feathers, 
cloth, furs, and stuffed animals and birds to a heap of 
dusty fragments. One is familiar with the ordinary 
moth cases containing the grubs, and sometimes the 
small white larvae make tunnels in the substance they 
are devouring, but in the room I speak of a certain 
red plush table-cover contained a number of neat 


little oval cells, and in each reposed a fat white 
grub, no doubt the maker of the cell. Since the cloth 
is ruined, I have allowed these innocent babies to 
remain in their cradles, and I shall watch them turn 
into chrysalides, and eventually into moths. 

The smallest specimens of this destructive tribe 
that I have yet met with are the cork moths ; they 
lay their eggs in the corks of old sweet wine, with the 
result that the grubs bore holes into the said corks, 
and thus let in the outer air and turn the wine into 
vinegar, and in this way thousands of bottles of 



choice wine become spoiled by an enemy so minute 
as to be very seldom seen in the winged state. 

This fact points to the necessity of protecting the 
corks of valuable wine by sealing-wax or metal capsules. 


Winter does not afford many living creatures as 
subjects for our study ; we 
must therefore turn our atten- 
tion to other natural objects. 
To-day, as snow is falling, \vc 
will go out with a powerful 
magnifying glass and examine 
the beauty of snow crystals. 

It is not always possible to 
see the formation of snow ; 
if there is much wind, the 
crystals are apt to be broken, 
and unless the cold is severe 
the flakes melt away too soon 
to allow us to examine them. 
In sharp frost, on a calm day, 
the first flake of snow we look 
at through a lens will reveal 
the beautiful si x-rayed crystals 
of which it is composed, and 
although each one has invari- 
ably six points, yet the orna- 
mentation is infinitely varied. 
Each lovely star is fringed 
with most delicate tracery, 
and the flower-like forms 
glisten like burnished silver. SNOV v CRYSTALS. 



Gambles witb nature Students 

I have read somewhere that no fewer than a 
thousand different patterns and devices have been 
found of these snow crystals, and as we examine the 
flake we have placed beneath the glass, we see for 
ourselves something of the indescribable beauty of 
these ' ice-morsels.' The silvery frost-work upon the 

window-pane shows the 
same crystalline law, only 
the stars are often merged 
into continuous tracery, so 
that the six rays are not 
always so easily discerned 
as in the snowflake. 

Several winters ago the 
severe frost wrought won- 
derful effects in my garden. 
The tree-branches, down 
to the finest twigs, appeared 
as if they had been turned 
into spun glass, and when 
the sun shone out the effect 
was beautiful beyond de- 
scription. Every shrub 
had some special form of 
frost decoration, accord- 
ing to the shape of its 

I could have spent hours in sketching the various 
designs, so marvellously intricate were they and 
beautiful, but the cold was too severe to admit 
of that, and I can only reproduce from memory 
the laurel fringes which are shown in the illus- 

The frost-needles were quite half an inch long, and 



gave a curious effect to the sprays of leaves, an effect 
I have never seen either before or since. 


Finding a last year's bulb turned into a skeleton 
by the action of rain and wind, and lying like a 
piece of lace-work on the 
surface of the ground, I picked 
it up this morning, and have 
since then been looking for 
such other instances of woody 
fibre as it may be possible to 
light upon in the garden and 

Under my holly trees were 
some very perfect skeleton 
leaves, only needing to be 
bleached in a weak solution of 
chloride of lime to form charm- 
ing sprays to place with other 
leaves under a glass shade. 

Magnolia leaves may often be found thus turned 
into skeletons when they have been lying on damp 
ground for some months ; but as these and other 
specimens are seldom quite perfect, the best way, 
if we wish for a case of really beautiful lace-like 
leaves, is to make them for ourselves, by gathering 
well-matured specimens of suitable species, and 
placing them in a deep pan full of soft water, 
letting them soak until the upper and under skins 
of the leaves are rotted, when they can be brushed 
off with a camel-hair pencil. 

When the skeletons are bleached, they should be 


36 IRamWes wttb IRature Students 

dried between sheets of blotting-paper, mounted into 
a group with fine wire and placed under a glass shade. 

The following leaves succeed well : holly, mag- 
nolia, pear, maple, poplar, and sycamore. 

Seed-vessels are very beautiful when carefully 

Stramonium, henbane, poppy, winter - cherry, 
butcher's broom, yellow-rattle, a bunch of sycamore 
keys ; and a very old Swedish turnip also makes 
a sphere of woody fibre of fine delicate network, 
which few people would ever guess to be the 
framework of that homely vegetable. 


A heavy fall of snow gives us a clue to the nocturnal 
wanderings of such animals as hares, rabbits, foxes, 
rats, and mice. With a little practice, we may learn 
to recognise their respective footprints in the garden 
and fields. 

Some animals run, others leap along ; each creature 
has its own manner of getting over the ground, and 
what we cannot see when we catch a glimpse of them, 
when their limbs are in rapid action, is faithfully 
revealed by the snowprints. 

We can soon learn hare and rabbit-marks, which 
always show two feet in front, one before the other, 
and the hind feet parallel. 

The fox runs like a dog, with alternate prints, the 
squirrel places its short fore feet close together, and 
the hind feet widely apart. 

Rats vary much in their movements ; land and 
water-rats, young and old rats, all mark the snow 
differently, and are very puzzling to define. 

jfebruars 37 

I think mice are the cleverest little people in snowy 
times ; they know that they can easily be seen by 
owls, so they form tunnels in the snow from one spot 




a * 





to another, so that they may go to and fro in safety ; 
their fore and hind feet make parallel marks as 
they leap along. 

38 IRambles wttb IRature Students 

If a mole chances to be on the surface of the 
ground, he makes a furrow as he flounders through 
the snow, and his footprints are alternate. 

I was much puzzled by a three-pronged impression 
always with a connecting line in the middle, but at 
last I discovered it to be made by the pheasant ; it 
plants one foot exactly in front of the other, and 
the long hind toe makes the trailing line between 
the footprints. 

Pigeons and doves, having very short legs, are 
apt to help themselves along with their wings, and 
these leave a sort of blurred trail rather difficult to 
make out, until one has seen one of these birds 
plodding with difficulty through the snow. 

With a little study we may soon distinguish the 
birds that walk from those that run or hop, and 
once our attention has been called to this subject 
of footprints, we shall find it a rather amusing 
interest added to our winter rambles. 

THE LESSER CELANDINE (Ranunculus ficaria] 

The lesser celandine is amongst the earliest of our 
spring flowers. 

' The first gilt thing 
That wears the trembling pearls of spring.' 


Its bright cheery flowers may be found in this 
month starring the ground in sheltered nooks or on 
hedge banks. It is one of the buttercup family, and 
possesses a rather curious root, consisting of small 
oval-shaped tubers ; these break off very readily when 

jfebruars 39 

touched, and a heavy storm of rain will sometimes 
wash the earth away from the root, breaking off these 
tubers and leaving them scattered about on the surface 
of the ground. This fact in olden days gave rise to 


the belief that it sometimes rained wheat, as the small 
bulbs when detached very much resemble wheat grains. 
Like all buttercups, the plant is poisonous ; but in 
spite of that its glossy green leaves and golden flowers 
are welcome to our eyes, as tokens of the coming 
spring. It may be interesting to observe that in 

40 IRambles wttb mature Students 

different flowers the petals vary in number from five 
to nine, and the sepals are equally varied, ranging 
from three to five or six. 

The small honey glands at the base of the petals 
render this plant attractive to bees and flies, and the 
flowers thus become fertilised by their visits ; but if, 
by reason of its growing in a shady place, no 
insects happen to visit the flowers and they fail to 
ripen fruit, then the plant has another resource, and 
produces small bulbils in the axils of the leaves, 
and these in time fall off and become new plants. 

The name ficaria is said to be given to this species 
because the small tubers somewhat resemble a fig 
(ficus) in shape. 


I see to-day one of the earliest signs of approaching 
spring ! Even before the snowdrop can be found, the 
little hanging blossoms of the hazel, called by country 
children ' lambs' tails,' are to be discovered on the 
bare sprays. They have been there since last autumn 
all unobserved, but now they are daily lengthening 
and growing more conspicuous, and will soon be 
shedding out their pale yellow pollen as a passing 
wind shakes the branches. 

From this time onward we shall find much interest 
in the study of tree blossoms, and I will endeavour 
to speak of them in the order in which they appear. 

The essential thing in all flowers, in fact the very 
reason for the existence of a flower, is that its seed 
should be rendered fertile, so that when sown it should 
produce a plant like itself. In the greater number of 
plants we find stamens and pistils, which are the male 

jfebruarp 41 

and female organs, contained in the same flower. In 
tree blossoms there is sometimes a different arrange- 

When the willow blossom is out (which we call 
palm), we shall find one tree bearing the pretty silvery 
buds which develop later on into the golden powdery 
blossoms ; these are the male trees, and near by we 

(S/totving male and female flowers). 

shall find other willows with pale green flowers ; 
these, after receiving a shower of pollen, will eventu- 
ally bear an abundance of fluffy willow seed. Next 
month I shall be able to show an illustration of both 
these trees. In our hazel tree the female flower is at 
present a small brown bud, having at the apex a little 
bunch of crimson threads, and on the same twig hangs 
the male catkin with which we are so familiar. As 

42 IRambles wttb mature Students 

soon as this hazel flower is fully expanded its anthers 
containing the pollen will split open, and the first 
passing breeze will scatter an abundance of the light 
powder into the air ; some of it is sure to fall upon 
the crimson stigmas projecting from the brown buds ; 
thus the future nut is fertilised, and is enabled to grow 
and mature into those welcome nut-clusters which we 


(Showing male and female 


look for in the autumn hedges. Towards the end of 
this month we shall find the alder catkins (Alnus 
glutinosd} beginning to ripen and shed out their pollen. 
They somewhat resemble the hazel, only they are of a 
brownish red, and the future cones appear in the form 
of a small spray of dark crimson buds, usually found 
close to the hanging catkin, and it too is fertilised in 
the same manner as the hazel. 

jfebruavs 43 


Queen wasps are now beginning to come out of 
the holes and crevices in which they have been 
hibernating during the winter. All the male and 
worker wasps die in the autumn, and only the 
queens survive until the following spring, when 
milder weather wakens them from their torpid con- 
dition, and they begin to seek a suitable place in 
which to build a nest and found a wasp colony. 

We have in England four or five species of wasps, 
and each may readily be distinguished by the 
markings on the face and body, as shown in the 

The common wasp (Vespa vulgaris) prefers to 
build cither in a hollow tree or a hole in a hedge 
bank. Having scooped out a sufficiently large 
cavity, the queen lines it with a papery substance 
made of decayed wood. 

I often watch these insects busily at work upon 
the stump of an old tree in my garden. With 
their strong mandibles they rasp off the dry wood 
fibres and moisten them with a glutinous liquid, 
secreted in their mouths, until they have a small 
bundle of a convenient size to carry away. With 
this material the wasp makes a ceiling to her nest, 
placing about sixteen layers one over the other, to 
make a firm foundation. 

From this roof are suspended terraces of cells 
made of the same grey paper, and formed exactly 
like the honey-comb of bees, only these are made 
to contain wasp-eggs instead of honey. An egg is 
laid in each cell, and the grubs when hatched hang 
head downwards and are fed from below. This 


Rambles witb mature Students 

seems a curious arrangement, but the grubs are in 
some way enabled to hold on by their tails, so that 
they never fall out, and as they grow they line their 
cells with a kind of silk, change their skins several 
times, become chrysalides, and then in due time 
push off the cover of their cell and crawl out perfect 
wasps. They are pale-coloured and weakly at first, 

1. Vespa Germanica. 

2. Vespa rufa. 

3. Vespa vulgaris. 

4. Vespa sylvestris. 

but soon gain strength and colour and begin life on 
their own account. 

As soon as the mother wasp finds that her eggs 
are beginning to hatch, she leaves off building cells, 
and spends her time in feeding her young brood of 
grubs, and goes on doing so until they are full 
grown. In a little while she finds herself surrounded 
by crowds of obedient worker wasps, and by their 


aid she goes on enlarging the nest and laying more 
and more eggs, until at the end of the season a nest 
is said to contain as many as thirty thousand wasps. 

We have reason to be grateful to these insects, 
because they feed upon flies, and immensely reduce 
their numbers during the hot summer months. I 
have often seen a wasp seize a housefly from the 
window pane and make off with it ; they also pick 
off the teasing flies from the cattle, and thus render 
them valuable service. 

The wood wasp (Vespa sylvestris] forms beautiful 
hanging nests in trees, where they look like grey 
paper roses. These nests are made of the same 
wood fibre masticated into extremely thin layers, 
forming the outer case ; within are the brood cells, 
and at the bottom an opening is left for ingress 
and egress. 

Although so much dreaded by most people, the 
wasp is really an inoffensive insect, rarely using its 
sting unless it is provoked and ill-treated. I cannot 
say as much for the honey-bee ; I have known one 
to fly straight out of the hive and fix its sting in 
some innocent passer-by, who had done nothing to 
deserve such treatment. A bee will also pursue its 
victim, as I have reason to know, with unrelenting 

In the days when I possessed an apiary, if an 
ill-tempered bee set upon me, I found there was but 
one thing that would baffle my enemy in its pursuit ; 
it was somewhat ignominious, it is true, to have to 
hide one's head in a bush and remain thus for four 
or five minutes, but it always proved an effectual 
defence ; the angry hum of the bee died away in the 
distance, and one could at last emerge in safety. 

46 IRambles witb IRature Students 

This habit of the bee is alluded to in Deut 
i. 44, 'The Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, 
came out against you, and chased you, as bees do/ 

As we think of the life-history of the queen wasp, 
and how, as soon as she wakes from her winter's 
sleep, she sets about forming a nest, laying her eggs, 
and when the young are hatched feeding and 
watching over them with patient mother-love, and 
all this entirely by herself, guided only by the 
wonderful instinct with which she has been endowed 
by the Creator, I think we can but admire the 
qualities she possesses. And further, when we see the 
marvellous industry of a colony of wasps how they 
also carry out the various useful purposes for which 
they were created, clearing away dead wood, reducing 
the hosts of flics, and eating many substances that 
would otherwise tend to pollute the air we shall, 
I hope, henceforth look with different eyes upon 
the persecuted wasp, and instead of showing a 
foolish dread of its presence, learn to watch its 
curious ways, and recognise that it is faithfully 
doing, in its humble sphere, the work that has been 
assigned to it. 


1 In the wind of windy March 
The catkins drop down, 
Curly, caterpillar-like 
Curious green and brown." 


'A gleam of sunshine flashes o'er the plain, 
The playful lambs arnid the meadows skip, 
The swallow tribe pursue their sport amain, 
And in the glassy stream their pinions dip : 
Though rude his greeting, all rejoice to hear 
The voice of March, for well they know that Spring is near. 1 

H. G. Adams. 




(HE bright coral-red berries 
the aucuba are now 
r ing in pretty contrast with 
light-green spotted leaves. 
This useful hardy 
shrub was in- 
troduced from 
Japan in 1783, 
but as it is 
dioecious and 
bears male and 
female flowers on 
different trees, no 
berries were ever 
seen on the early 
specimens ; for it 
happened that they 
were exclusively 
of the female sex. 
However, in 1861 Mr. R. Fortune, the great travellei 
and botanist, brought over from China some of the 
male pollen-bearing trees, and now the wind carries 
the fertilising dust far and wide, and the sprays of red 
berries appear amongst the foliage in profusion. 

This shrub is not only ornamental, but has the useful 



50 iRambles wttb mature Students 

quality of thriving well in smoky air, and hence we see 
it frequently growing in town gardens and squares. 


I do not suppose that the honey-glands of the 
common cherry-laurel are often observed, as they 
exist on the under side of the leaf, and are therefore 
hidden from the passer-by. We may often have 
wondered why, in early spring, we frequently see 
bees, wasps and flies buzzing about our laurel hedges, 
and apparently busy in collecting something which 
they need at that season. If we examine the back 
of one of the leaves, we shall discover the attraction, 
for at the base of the leaf and near the midrib are 
from two to four glands exuding a sweet liquid which 
affords welcome sustenance to insects. What par- 
ticular use these glands may be to the shrub itself is 
not known ; they seem to be a speciality of the laurel ; 
for, although I have examined a large number of 
shrubs and trees, I cannot find similar glands in any 
other plant, though doubtless some may exist. 

The so-called laurel is really a species of cherry, 
and in favourable years it bears long sprays of purple 
berries. The true laurel is the bay tree, Laurus nobilis; 
it also bears cherry-like fruits, but only in the southern 
parts of England. 

THE MEALWORM BEETLE (Tenebris molitor) 

When our feathered pets are of a kind that will 
not prosper without insect diet, the best mode of 
supplying them, during both winter and summer, 
with food which will keep them in health and vigour, 
is always rather a difficult problem. 


5 1 

Ants' eggs are collected and dried, and can always 
be purchased throughout the year, and these afford a 
useful food for many species of birds, although I have not 
found them always approved of by my own special pets. 

Raw meat is another resource, but it is troublesome 
to prepare, and very difficult to keep fresh in hot 
weather. The one item that seems indispensable in 
bird-keeping is the mealworm, and, as many people 
have asked me, ' What is a mealworm ? ' I will take it 
for my subject to-day. If my readers will refer to 

Magnified about six limes larger than life. 

the illustration, they will see a long sort of caterpillar, 
which is the aforesaid mealworm, the larva of the 
mealworm beetle. 

Instead of being soft, like an ordinary grub, it is 
hard and polished, of a brownish yellow colour, and 
in all respects extremely like the destructive pest 
called by gardeners the wireworm. The latter, how- 
ever, is the larva of a different species of beetle which 
feeds on plant roots. 

The mealworm beetle is always to be found in 

52 IRambles wttb feature Students 

mills, granaries, and bakehouses in fact, wherever 
flour is kept, for in it the beetles lay their eggs, and 
these hatch into minute thread-like grubs, which in 
two years' time grow into flat long-bodied mealworms, 
perfectly harmless, scentless creatures, easily kept in 
a tin box filled with barley-meal and flour. They 
grow and fatten all the quicker if the box is kept in 
a warm place and some layers of flannel are supplied, 
as they feed upon flannel as well as upon flour. The 
flannel should be moistened occasionally with a little 
beer or water. 

At length the worm turns into a curious mummy- 
like chrysalid, and then into the perfect beetle, which, 
although it is black, is not in any way related to the 
so-called blackbeetle or cockroach (which is not a 
beetle at all), and is of a reddish brown, the male 
possessing four strong wings. 

The mealworm beetle is as innocent and harmless 
as its larva ; I sometimes find a wandering specimen 
near my bird-cages, and I know I can safely pick it 
up and restore it to the box where its kith and kin 
reside, with no fear of its biting or leaving any odour 
on my hands. 

The English nightingale is unfortunately so greedy 
for this insect, that birdcatchers can always trap it with 
the greatest ease by clearing a space upon the ground 
and placing some mealworms on limed twigs. The bird 
flies down immediately to secure the dainty, and is 
held fast and caught by the snare so cunningly set. 

WHITLOW GRASS (Draba vernd) 

Early in this month I found, on an old wall, the 
pretty rosettes of one of our very early spring flowers, 

/iDarcb 53 

the whitlow grass, which is not really a grass, but a 
miniature plant, seldom more than three inches high, 
and sometimes so small that it only occupies a space 
that might be covered by a shilling. 


On a tiny central stalk it bears a few white flowers, 
which droop gracefully when the air is moist ; the 
petals quickly fall away, and then small oval seed 
vessels appear ; these, when mature, shed off two 
outer husks, leaving a white membrane which divides 
the seed vessel, just as one sees it in the seed vessel 
of the common honesty. 

54 IRambles witb Mature Stufcents 

During February and March the whitlow grass may 
sometimes be seen growing in such profusion on old 
ruined walls as to give the effect of a slight fall 
of snow. 

Another charming little annual which haunts old 
walls is the rue-leaved saxifrage (Saxifraga tridacty- 
lites). It rarely exceeds three inches in height ; a 
dainty little plant with white flowers, three-lobed 
leaves thickly covered with viscid hairs, upon which 
small insects may often be found entangled. 

When the flowers are over, the stem and leaves 
become of a rich red tint, which seems "frequently to 
be the case with plants exposed to the full sunlight, 
as they are when growing upon rocks or walls. We 
may prove this by trying the experiment of keeping 
two specimens of this plant in pots, and placing one 
of them in a sunny spot and the other in shade. We 
shall find that the latter will continue to be green, and 
fail to attain its natural crimson colour. 


Dandelion flowers are now making such a bright 
glow of colour by the roadside that we will choose 
them for our subject of study to-day. 

The plant takes its name of dent-de-lion from the 
form of the leaves, which are so deeply cut as to 
resemble teeth ; more especially, perhaps, in the spring 
is this the case, as later on in the summer they become 
less sharply indented. 

The flower-bud rises from the centre of the plant to 
nearly a foot in height, then it opens and becomes 
fertilised by insects. As soon as this process has 
been completed, the flower closes up, and the dead 



petals and calyx leaves remain 
like a pointed roof defending the 
seed from rain. Now the stalk 
bends down until it lies flat upon 
the ground, where it remains about 
twelve days. By that time the 
seeds are matured, and the stalk 
again rises to an upright position. 
The calyx leaves now turn back 
until they are parallel with the 
stem, and the beautiful downy 
globe is formed and expands 
until it is a fluffy ball of seeds, 
hanging so loosely that the 
lightest breeze can waft them 
into the air. 

The seed itself is worth ex- 
amination. When, after a longer 
or shorter flight, a seed touches 
the ground and falls into some 
crevice, it might still be dragged 
out by the wind and carried 
away ; but this is guarded 
against by some spiny pro- 
jections on the upper part of 
the seed, which tend to hold 
it securely in its place. 

THE NUTHATCH (Sitta Europaa) 

The nuts we throw out at the windows for the 
squirrels are frequently shared by the nuthatches. 
These pretty birds abound in my old garden, and in 
the course of years they have become so extremely 
tame that they will almost take nuts out of our hands. 


56 TRambles vvttb mature Stufcents 

An old oak tree on the lawn near by is much 
used by these birds ; they ram the barcelonas into 
crevices in the rugged bark, and whilst they hang 
head downward to gain the greater force, I hear 
the beaks' loud hammering going on, and afterwards 
find the empty nutshells, from which the kernels 


have been extracted, still remaining in the interstices 
of the tree bark. 

The loud call-note of this bird is one of the early 
signs of coming spring. It is hard to believe that the 
small feathered creature that we see creeping up a 
tree-stem like a grey mouse can be filling the woods 

/I&arcb 57 

with so much sound. Its mating call-note is a clear 
sharp cry, several times repeated at short intervals, 
and maintained throughout the early spring months. 

One ancient lime tree near this house has frequently 
been the nesting home of four species of birds. In 
the highest hole some starlings established themselves. 
Just below a smaller cavity was taken by a pair of 
nuthatches. Some jackdaws appropriated another 
opening in the stem, and lower down a neat round 
hole was bored by a green woodpecker. 

These various lodgers all appeared to live har- 
moniously together, and they allowed me to watch 
them as they flitted in and out on family cares 
intent. The green woodpecker was the most wary, 
and would seldom allow me more than a hasty 
glimpse of his crimson head and golden green 

The nuthatch has a curious habit of closing the 
entrance to its nest with layers of mud until only 
a very small hole remains. The illustration shows a 
case in point. The bird had made its nest about 
twelve inches down a hollow tree trunk, and then, 
with infinite labour, it brought yellow clay sufficient 
to close up the tree stem, leaving but a small hole for 
ingress and egress. 

It is said that the male bird keeps its mate upon 
the nest, and feeds her through the entrance hole until 
her eggs are hatched. I have not seen this myself, 
and can only give the fact as stated by others. 


The high winds which usually prevail in early spring 
are performing a very useful office in scattering 
the seeds of trees and plants. When the hornbeams, 

58 IRamWes wltb mature Students 

sycamores, and maples have been unusually full of 
fruit, their dried bracts and seeds will be found 
lying thickly strewn over the lawn. 

The winged part of the sycamore fruit (botanically 


called samara] has in many cases become a delicate 
piece of lace-work, the action of rain and wind 
having made it into a skeleton ; the heavy end is 
entangled in the grass, and out of the seed-case a 


young rootlet is finding its way into the ground. 
Later on, I shall be able to find and record the 
unfolding cotyledon leaves, which are curiously rolled 
up within the seed-case. 

/l&arcb 59 

The maple fruit is also two-seeded, and somewhat 



resembles the sycamore (which is a maple), except 

that the two samaras are 

joined at a different angle. 

The fruit quickly divides, and 

each seed has then a fair 

chance of germinating. 

The hornbeam samara is 
like a three-pointed leaf, the 
sharp-angled nutlet being at- 
tached to it at the lower end. 
Each bract in the cluster 
seems to prepare for its flight 
by breaking off from the stem, 
and then hanging by a hair- 
like thread, so that a passing 
breeze may easily detach it. 

The araucaria, when well ARAUCARIA SEED. 

established and growing vigorously, will sometimes 

60 iRambles wttb IRature Stufcents 

produce its huge cones in England. There are male 
and female trees; the cones of the former will shed 
out more than a wineglassful of yellow pollens The 
strange-looking seeds which fall out of the fertile cones 
are sure to attract attention as they lie on the grass 
by their peculiar form and large size. 


The flowers of various species of poplar are now 
appearing, and form an interesting subject for study. 
1 have obtained to-day the catkins of the aspen 

(Populus tremula), the 
abele or white poplar 
(P. alba), the Lom- 
bardy poplar (P 
nigrd), and the grey 
poplar (P. canescens). 
A slight shower had 

WHITE POPLAR brought Qut the per _ 

(MALE CATKIN). f ume o f the buds and 
blossoms of the balsam 
poplar or tacamahac 
(P. balsamifera) 
which has very con- 
spicuous catkins of a 
bright reddish-brown. 
As most of these 
trees flower mainly on 
the upper branches, where we cannot reach the 
catkins, we must be content to pick them up, as I 
did to-day, beneath the trees, where they look 
extremely like red and brown caterpillars. 

Poplars are all dioecious trees ; that is, bearing 
flowers with stamens on one tree and flowers con- 


taining pistils on another, usually growing near 
by. This makes their study rather puzzling, and 
it is further complicated because the willows are 
now in flower, and there is a certain resemblance 
between them. We may, however, always recognise 
poplars by their drooping catkins, whilst willow 
flowers are invariably borne upright upon their stems. 
The male catkins bearing the stamens are usually 
the most conspicuous, 
and often they appear 
earlier than the female 

By dissecting a 
specimen poplar cat- 
kin from each tree, 
we can readily trace 
the different parts, 
the fringed scales 
bearing the stamens 
and small woolly 
stigmas which catch 
the pollen-dust 
brought them by the 

Poplar catkins are usually fertilised by the 
wind ; they contain no honey, and are therefore 
unattractive to insects. The willows, having 
small honey glands, offer three lures to the insect 
tribe colour, scent, and honey hence we may 
be sure to find bees and flies frequenting their 
early blossoms. 


62 IRambles witb IRature Students 



' When the rude natives of this polished land 
Formed the strong phalanx of their valiant band, 
With dext'rous hand the bended bow they drew, 
And shaped their arrows from the dusky yew.' 


The male blossoms of the yew tree are now fully 
out, and as a passing breeze shook the branches 
to-day they sent out clouds of yellow pollen. I never 
see this happening without recalling Tennyson's in- 
teresting allusion to the 'smoking' of the yew tree. 

4 O brother, 1 have seen this yew tree smoke, 
Spring after spring, for half a hundred years.' 

The Holy Grail. 

jflftavcb 63 

The female blossom is on a separate tree, and it 
may be at some distance away ; the wind therefore 
carries the fertilising pollen far and wide, and in due 
time it reaches the other flower, which will eventually 
produce the beautiful wax-like yew berries. 

I used to think that the showers of pollen, 
which make the ground under the tree look 
yellow with its abundance, was an instance of 
needless waste ; but I have now observed that 
many species of flies and solitary bees are ex- 


tremely fond of pollen and feed greedily upon 
it, as well as use it to store in their nests for 
their young grubs to feed upon when hatched. 
Doubtless in this way the tree is able, all 
through the early spring, to afford the winged 
creatures an abundant supply of needful food until 
they are able to obtain honey from the summer 


As one of the tokens of coming spring, it always 
gives me a thrill of pleasure to note for the first 
time the silvery willow buds appearing. As the 

6 4 

IRambles witfe Ittature Students 

dark brown bud scales begin to open and reveal 
the silky down within, then, as the sun gains 
power, these outer scales fall off, and the pure 
white catkins become conspicuous. They daily 
grow in size, until, attaining maturity, they are 
covered with pollen of a rich golden yellow. This 


pollen is highly attractive to the newly awakened 
humble bees. These may be seen clustered upon 
the blossoms, not only feeding themselves, but 
carrying away provision with which to store their 

It is interesting to observe that while the willow 
has only one bud scale, the lime tree has two, and 

fl&arcb 65 

other trees usually have many outer coverings for 
the bud. 

The male and female catkins are shown in the 
illustration, and, as I have said, they grow on 
different trees, which are usually found within a 
short distance of each other, so that the wind may 
carry the pollen from one tree to another in order 
to fertilise the flowers. 

A small low-growing species of willow called 
sallow, which, by the way, grows abundantly on 
our common, is the kind which is most frequently 
gathered for decoration at Eastertide. This custom 
dates from the time when palm-branches were 
strewn before our Lord when He was riding into 

The true palm, of course, is still used in Eastern 
countries for church decoration ; but as we in 
England have no tree with either fresh green 
leaves or conspicuous blossoms flowering at Easter, 
the willow, with its pretty golden catkins, has 
been called palm, and substituted for it for many 
generations. A passage of Goethe on this subject 
has been thus translated : 

1 In Rome, upon Palm Sunday, 

They bear true palms ; 
The cardinals bow reverently, 

And sing old Psalms. 
Elsewhere their Psalms are sung 

Mid olive branches ; 
The holly-bough supplies their places 

Among the avalanches ; 
More northern climes must be content 

With the sad willow.' 

With reference to that last line it is rather curious 
that, from the days when captive Israel hung their 


66 IRambies witb IRature Students 

harps upon the willows of Babylon, the tree should 
have been regarded as an emblem of sadness : and 
yet, in later times, it should have changed its 
character, and become a token of joy and gladness. 

We possess from thirty to forty kinds of willow 
in Britain, ranging from trees eighty feet in height 
down to the dwarf species which abound on northern 
moors, and are only a few inches high. 

I have gathered sufficient of the white silky down 
from the willow seed-vessels on our common to stuff 
a sofa-cushion, and in fine weather the air is filled 
with the light fluffy seeds which are thus carried 
far and wide. 

We owe to the willow the valuable medicine sali- 
cine, so much used for the alleviation of rheumatic 
pains. A preparation of salicine crystals forms a 
beautiful microscopic slide, and when shown with 
the polariscope exhibits exquisite rainbow colours. 


' Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees ; 
Seeds and roots, and stones of fruits, 
Swollen with sap, put forth their shoots ; 
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane ; 
Birds sing and pair again.' 

Christina Roiselti 


ST. MARK'S FLY (Bibio Hard) 

|T. MARK'S fly, so-called because it 
generally appears about the time of the 
saint's day, has come late this year ; but 
I see it now resting on various flowers, or 
else flying in its own very peculiar way, with its long 
hairy legs hanging down like a bunch of black threads. 

The male fly has clear wings, those of the female 
are dusky ; the former has eyes double the size of 
those of the latter ; both the insects are jet black, 
and very sluggish in their movements, so by these 
characteristics they may be easily identified. 

The female lays about one hundred and fifty eggs 
at a time in grass roots or decayed vegetable matter, 
upon which the grubs feed. These remain in the 
ground throughout the winter, and when full grown 
the larvae become chrysalides, and in a few weeks' 
time the perfect flies emerge. 

Another fly belonging to the same genus (Bibio 
JoJiannis] is called St. John's fly, as it is to be seen 
about the latter end of June, when St. John the 
Baptist's day falls in the calendar. I am not familiar 
with its appearance, but I imagine from its scientific 
description it must be very similar to the St. Mark's fly. 

These two insects are, I believe, quite harmless, 


IRambles wttb mature Students 

but some of their near relatives are grievous torments 
to horses and cattle in the various countries where 
they are found. 

In Servia a minute fly so irritates the flocks and herds 
by its intolerable stings, that hundreds of sheep and 

oxen are driven 
mad and perish 
in consequence of 
its attacks. 

In India there 
are flies that can 
even pierce the 
elephant's hide, 
and in Florida, 
cows, horses, and 
mules are almost 
eaten alive by 
voracious fat- 
bodied flies, which 
give them no 
peace during the 
summer months. 
It is rather a con- 
solation to know 
that an insect called the ' coachman fly ' preys in its 
turn upon these tormentors, 1 and 'will sit through a long 
drive on the collar or some other part of the harness, 
or even on the steed itself, in order to pounce upon 
the insects as they settle. The curious thing is that 
the horses seem to know the difference, for directly a 
horse-fly comes, even if it does not sting, they become 
restless, tossing their heads and lashing with their 
tails ; but the " coachman " may rest on any part of 

1 Rpyal Nat. History > vol. vi., p. 59. 


Bpril 71 

them for any length of time and never be interfered 
with or driven off.' 

The tsetse fly of Africa is perhaps the most 
formidable of these insect plagues ; its bite is fatal 
to horses, oxen, and dogs. Dr. Livingstone was 
constantly hindered in his missionary journeys by 
this apparently insignificant enemy, for in one short 
journey, although he scarcely saw more than twenty 
of the flics, yet forty-three of his valuable draught 
oxen died from their attacks. 

The tsetse fly is scarcely so large as a bluebottle, 
of a brown colour, with yellow markings, and a long 
proboscis ; fortunately, its bite is harmless to man, 
but travellers may well dread its peculiar buzz, as 
it may portend the death of their horses and cattle, 
by means of which alone they can journey across the 
African deserts. 

THE DEATH'S HEAD MOTH (Acherontia atropos) 

I had a surprise this morning. A splendid specimen 
of the death's head moth (Acherontia atropjs] came 
out of its chrysalis, and was reposing upon a small 
branch I had placed for its convenience. For seven 
months I have been tending this said chrysalis, 
keeping the moss on which it rested sufficiently damp 
and yet not too wet, as either extreme would have 
been fatal to the insect. 

Never having seen a living specimen of this, one 
of the largest of our native sphinxes, I gazed with 
delight at the varied markings on the body and 
wings, a rich intermingling of brown, blue, fawn and 
velvety black. 

The antennae are black and end in a white hooked 

72 IRambles witb IFlatute Students 

bristle. The legs are barred with black and white, 
and thickly clothed with fawn-coloured masses of 
furry down. With bright orange under wings and a 
portly body of pale blue and orange, my readers can 
believe my new acquisition is indeed a rich piece of 


The singular mark upon the thorax from which 
the moth derives its name indistinctly resembles a 
human skull ; an unfortunate fact for the insect itself, 
as in olden days it was looked upon as a weird 
forerunner of all kinds of evil, and its also possessing 
the power of emitting a low squeaking sound was 
sufficient to raise up a host of superstitious fears in 
the minds of ignorant people who persecuted and 

Bpnl 73 

killed it without mercy. The Rev. J. G. Wood l 
relates an amusing incident where ' A whole circle 
of village people were standing around a death's head 
moth that had by some mischance got into the 
churchyard. Not one of them dared to touch it, 
and at last it was killed by the village blacksmith, 
who courageously took a long jump and came down 
on the unfortunate moth with his iron-shod boots.' 

I hoped to feed and tame this curious sphinx, but 
it will not partake of any kind of food, not even 
honey, which is said to be so attractive to this species 
of moth as to lead it to force its way into beehives, 
much to the annoyance of the bees ; they are some- 
times compelled to raise waxen walls at the entrance 
of the hive to keep out these intruding moths. 

The caterpillar of this sphinx varies much in colour, 
but is usually of a lemon yellow and green, with 
violet stripes on its sides ; it is often four or even 
five inches in length. It feeds on the potato, jessamine, 
and deadly nightshade, but is not often found, because 
it hides itself in the earth during the day, and creeps 
out for its food at night. When labourers are digging 
up potatoes they frequently find the great chrysalides 
of this moth, which they invariably call 'locusts,' 
' ground-grubs,' or ' maggots.' 

I obtained my specimen from a poor woman 
who was begging her way to some potato-fields 
where she hoped to obtain work. I learned that 
she often came across these ' locusts,' as she called 
them, when engaged in digging up potatoes, and 
having received an order for some she duly brought 
them to rue, but unfortunately only one chrysalid has 
survived the winter and reached the perfect stage. 

1 Insects at Home. 

74 IRambies witb mature Students 

THE HUMBLE-BEE FLY (Bombylius major) 

The appearance of the graceful humble-bee fly 
hovering over the early spring flowers is to me 
one of the welcome signs of spring. 

It flutters over my beds of forget-me-not and 
pulmonaria, and poising on the wing like a humming- 
bird, it inserts its long and very slender proboscis into 
each blossom in succession, extracting the honey 
upon which its delicate life is sustained. The 
slightest movement on my part sends it off so swiftly 
that the eye cannot follow it, and yet it will return 
after a time, and allow me to watch its graceful flights 
just as long as I remain perfectly still. 

It is a fly with a good deal of character, and it 
differs in many respects from any other with which I 
am acquainted. I have sometimes caught a specimen 
in a soft gauze net, and carefully placed it under a 
glass shade containing a small vase of sweet fiowers 
for its refreshment. At first the fly gives up all for 
lost and lies on its back with its slender legs in the 
air, as if in a dead faint ; but it soon revives, and 
softly humming to itself, it hovers gently round the 
flowers, and when at last assured that there is no 
outlet for escape, it becomes quite resigned and 
begins to draw honey from the blossoms until it is 
satisfied, when it will rest upon a leaf in a contented 
fashion, not in the least minding its loss of liberty. 

If my readers will contrast with this the conduct 
of a newly caught bluebottle fly placed under a 
glass, and think of the wild way in which it will 
strike itself against its prison walls, buzzing and 
dashing about in a blind unreasoning fright, I think 



they will understand 
what I mean by 
difference of char- 
acter in insects. 
This might afford a 
very interesting sub- 
ject for study. 

I believe very 
little is known about 
the life-history of 
this charming insect. 
Its larvae arc said to 
be parasites, feeding 

upon caterpillars and other insects. The perfect fly 
is seen from March to May, but I have not observed 
it in the summer or autumn months. 



The ash is now becoming conspicuous by the 
size of its dark flower and leaf-buds. This feature 
has often been noticed by the poets ; Bishop Mant 
speaks of 

' Its buds on either side opposed 
In couples each to each, enclosed 
In caskets black and hard as jet, 
The ash-tree's graceful branch beset.' 

I scarcely ever pass by an ash tree in spring but 
I recall Tennyson's well-known lines 

' Those eyes 

Darker than darkest pansies, and that hair 
More black than ashbuds in the front of March.' 

IRambles witb mature Students 

As a rule the buds are placed exactly opposite 
to each other on the branch, but in the illustration 
they are alternate, as I find is often the case towards 
the end of the spray. 

The flowers of the ash are varied enough to 
puzzle a young botanist. Some of the flowers contain 


stamens, others bear only pistils, and some may be 
found with both stamens and pistils ; these varied 
blossoms are described in botany as polygamous. 

The ash is largely grown in Kent to supply 
poles for the hop-grounds. The trees are planted in 
narrow strips of ground adjoining the fields, and when 



the young saplings are sufficiently tall they are cut 
down, and after a few years the stems that have sprouted 
from the root-stocks are just 
the straight poles that are 
required to support the hop- 
plants. The process is re- 
peated from time to time, so 
as to maintain the needed 
supply. A little wood of 
this kind is called a 'shave/ 
possibly a corruption of the 
word shaw, with which we are 

In olden times the ash was 
called ' The Husbandman's 
Tree,' as it supplies tough, 
flexible handles for all kinds 
of tools and agricultural im- 

We may easily distinguish 
the two kinds of catkins on 
the birch ; the pistil-bearing 
flower is small and upright, 
whilst the male catkin hangs 
down and bears the pollen in its bracts. Towards 
the autumn we shall find the small catkin, which is 
now erect, will have become pendent and composed 
entirely of minute seeds which autumnal gales will 
carry far and wide. 


The lawns and flower-beds are now covered 
with sycamore, beech, and other seedling trees in 
various stages of growth. As the two seed-leaves, or 


IRambles witb mature Students 

cotyledons, as they ought to be called, differ very 
much from the mature leaves, it is rather interesting 
to try and find out each species, and thus learn 
to identify trees in their babyhood. 

The sycamores seem to find it difficult to get 
out of their seed-coats, for here and there we 
may find one with a stem an inch long with the 
winged part (samara) perched at the top like 

some quaint kind of 
headgear. Even if 
they get out of the 
husk, they are for 
the first day or two 
crumpled into odd 
shapes, just as they 
were packed and 
curled up in the seed- 
coat ; but before long 
they spread out their 
two cotyledons and 
seem to rejoice in the 
light and air. 

These seedlings are 
of a dark green colour 
with a crimson stem, 
a combination we may also find in the bud of the 
tree itself, which in some specimens has outer bud- 
scales of the richest crimson, whilst the delicately 
folded young leaves within are of a vivid tint of 

I have just found a remarkable number of these 
seedlings with three and even four cotyledon leaves, 
showing that the seeds must have contained three 
or four embryos A month or two later these young 


Bpril 79 

trees will show two leaves of the mature form, which 
is quite different from the strap-shaped cotyledon. 

It may interest my readers to be reminded that 
the sycamore of which I have been speaking is not 
the sycamore of Scripture, which is a species of fig, 
and an entirely different tree in every respect. It 
has an oval undivided leaf like the bay tree and 
having wide-spreading branches affording abundant 
shade ; it is often to be met with by the roadside 
in Palestine, where it is planted for the benefit of 
wayfarers, who welcome the cool shelter it affords 
from the hot sun, and also the sustaining fruit it bears. 

Beech seed-leaves consist of two broad, deep 
green cotyledons of palest green beneath ; they are 
very distinctive, and once identified we can never 
mistake them. 

The lime tree has seedlings with deeply incised 
leaves, very unlike the perfect form. 

If we have no companion who can name these 
baby-trees for us, the only way to learn about 
them is to look under the various trees in April 
and May, when we shall probably light upon the 
growing seeds of each kind. When pressed and 
dried, they form an interesting collection either by 
themselves, or to add to any dried specimens of the 
English forest trees we may happen to be forming. 


One of the commonest weeds to be found 
throughout spring and winter is the shepherd's 
purse (Capsella-bursa pastoris). It often bears as 
many as fifty pods on its stem, and by counting 
the number of seeds in each pod and adding the 
whole number together, we shall find the total to 


IRambles witfo Iftature Stufcents 

amount to about one thousand five hundred seeds. 
No wonder gardeners find it a troublesome weed, 
when one plant can produce so many seeds and 

sow itself all over the 
garden. We may note its 
very varied leaves, those on 
the stem are oblong and 
arrow-shaped at the base, 
the root leaves being pin- 
natifid, that is, cleft into 
divisions half way down. 

In China and North 
America the plant is used 
as a vegetable, and it used 
to be credited with medi- 
cinal virtues. 

My chief interest in this 
hardy little weed arises from 
its remarkable power of 
adaptation ; if it happens to 
be growing in rich soil, it 
will attain to a height of 
one or two feet, but if 
starved in some wall crevice 
or growing between the 
stones on a hard gravel path 
even there it does its best ; 

its dwarf stem is covered with immature purses, and 
is crowned by a tiny head of flowers ; it is thus a 
true emblem of patience and fruitfulness under 
adverse circumstances, 


' All the land in flowery squares, 
Beneath a broad and equal-blowing wind, 
Smelt of the coming summer, as one large cloud 
Drew downward ; but all else of heaven was pure 
Up to the sun, and May from verge to verge, 
And May with me from head to heel. . . . 

To left and right 

The cuckoo told his name to all the hills ; 
The mellow ouzel fluted in the elm ; 
The red-cap whistled ; and the nightingale 
Sang loud, as tho' he were the bird of day.' 




T is interesting 
to observe the 
markings up- 
on the petals 
of flowers 
which serve 
as honey 
guides for the 
bees. For 
instance, in 
the rhodo- 
dendron the 
stamens all 
curl upwards, 
and the richly 
spots are 
placed on the 

upper petals, to direct the bee where to alight. As 
it passes down into the flower to obtain the honey 
it is seeking, it cannot help brushing pollen off the 
anthers, and thus, its hairy body becoming covered 
with the powder, it carries it to the next flower it 
enters, and ensures what is called cross fertilisation- 



8 4 

IRambles witb mature Students 

that is, the pollen of one blossom being placed on 
the stigma of another. 

In the gladiolus the stamens are differently 
arranged, and the bee is required to enter below 
instead of above the stamens ; there are therefore 
three honey guides on the lower petals, and the bee, 
all unconsciously, bears a load of pollen on its back, 

and performs its 
useful office of 
fertiliser to each 
flower in succes- 

In the iris the 
lower petal is 
usually covered 
with a rich pat- 
tern of coloured 
stripes, which all 
lead up to the 
narrow passage 
where the bee 
must enter and 
push its way, 
necessarily brush- 
ing pollen off the 
anther in its pro- 
gress to reach the honey at the base of the petal ; 
as it enters the next flower, it cannot fail to leave 
the pollen on the stigma at the entrance; and this 
wonderful contrivance can be traced in the delicate 
stripes of the wood-sorrel and very many other flowers, 
where distinct way-marks are afforded to guide the 
bees in their most useful work of fertilisation. It 
adds an interest to our walks to know that the infinitely 



varied beauty of flower-tints and markings have this 
useful purpose in view. 

The close connection that exists between insects 
and flowers has been much studied of late, and it 
has been ascertained that many plants cannot produce 
seed unless their flowers are visited by insects. When 
orchard-houses were first built, and stocked with 
peach, nectarine, and other trees, scarcely any fruit 
was produced, because no provision had been made 
for allowing bees to enter and do their useful work. 

This was the case in my own peach-house years 
ago, so a bee-hive was introduced when the blossoms 
were ready for fertilisation, the busy insects did their 
work effectually, and a good crop of fruit was the 
result ; but the poor bees could not find their way 
back to the hive, and they nearly all died. To obviate 
this sad disaster, the gardener has learned to fertilise 
peach-flowers by brushing them lightly with a hare's 
foot, which detaches the pollen and conveys it to the 
anthers without injuring the blossom. 

THE COMMON HOUSE FLY (Musca domestica) 

It is rather surprising that, as a rule, so little is 
known about the life-history of the common house 
fly. The creatures abound in our houses, we have 
been familiar with them from childhood, but where 
they come from, how they propagate, and what are 
the stages of their life-history, who can tell us ? 

Perhaps it may be interesting to throw some light 
upon thi.s domestic plague, and more especially will 
this be useful because a little knowledge about flies 
will enable us greatly to reduce their numbers. 

The common house fly lays its eggs in vegetable 

86 iRambles wttb IRature Stufcents 

refuse, decaying cabbage stalks and such like ; it is 
therefore important that such matters should be burnt 
instead of being thrown into the dust-bin. The eggs 
hatch into small white grubs : these, when full grown, 
become chrysalides, and the flies emerge in due time. 
The bluebottle fly is only attracted by a meat 
diet. These flies find out any dead animal or bird, 
and quickly deposit dozens of very small white eggs 
upon it. The eggs hatch out in a few hours into 
small white maggots (known to fishermen as 
' gentles ') of a peculiar shape, being pointed at one 
end and flat at the other. 

LARDER FLY (Magnified"). BLUEBOTTLE (Magnified}. 

These creatures devour any kind of flesh with 
wonderful rapidity, so that Linnaeus declared that 
' Three bluebottles could eat an ox as fast as a lion 
could.' The bluebottle is a very determined 
character. Even when meat is covered by a wire 
sieve this insect will often drop its eggs upon the 
joint through the interstices of the wirework, so that 
to make a larder really fly-proof the windows should 
be protected by fine wire gauze. The smaller green- 
bottle fly has the same habits, and spends its life in 
laying eggs on dead or decaying substances or else 
basking on leaves in the sunshine. When seen through 

fl&ax? 87 

a magnifying glass its body glistens like a precious 
stone, or like burnished golden-green metal ; although 
this insect is so common it is well worth examination, 
for its beauty really baffles descrip- 
tion. Its many faceted eyes and 
the formation of its feet should also 
be observed by the student. 

The larder fly (Sarcophaga car- 
naria) is the largest of the genus, 
being half an inch in length ; it 
differs from the other flies in deposit- 
ing its young alive upon decaying 
animal and vegetable matter, and, 
sad to say, it sometimes places its 
grubs upon living animals. 

Reaumur calculated the number 
of young produced by one fly of this 
species to be about 20,000 ; we may 
therefore imagine how valuable such 
an insect is in speedily removing 
decaying substances which would 
otherwise tend to pollute the air. 



Although bird-keepers are familiar 
with the canary-seed with which 
they feed so many of their pets, 
yet comparatively few people see 
the canary-grass growing, or even 
know that there is such a grass. 

I am apt to have a patch of it sown in some of 
the garden beds every year, as it is a beautiful sea 
green colour and makes a charming variety with 

IRambles witb nature Students 

other flowers. The stems are about two feet high, 
the leaves lance-shaped, and the soft round heads of 
flower are pale green streaked with darker markings. 

If we have but a few pots on a window-ledge, 
canary grass can be grown. About a dozen seeds 
sown in good soil and kept watered and sheltered 
from frost, will result in our seeing the pretty 
flower heads in clue time. April or May would be 
the best time to sow the seed either in a pot or 
in the ground. 

Canary grass is said to have been cultivated in 
this country in order to supply singing-birds with 
food ever since the days of Queen Elizabeth. It 
was introduced from Central Asia. It is largely 
grown in Kent and in the Isle of Thanet. 

THE TRINITY FLOWER (Trillium erectuni) 

This plant rejoices in a variety of names. In 
North America it is known as the wood-lily, three- 
leaved nightshade, and Indian shamrock ; its Latin 
name is Trillium, the number three seeming to be 
the order of its being. It possesses three leaves, 
three green bracts, which look very much like the 
sepals of a calyx, and three perianth leaves, 
differing from petals only in that those terms petal 
and sepal are never used in describing plants of 
the lily family. 

I watch for the flowering of my Trilliums each 
spring with keen interest, not only for their own 
exquisite beauty, but also on account of the halo 
of poetic charm woven around this flower by Mrs. 
Ewing in her sweet legend of The Trinity Floiver. 
I will not attempt to quote from it, but would 

advise my readers to obtain the little book l in 
which it may be found, and then they will be able 
to understand my reverent love for this charming 
flower. My plants were imported some years ago 


from Massachusetts ; but they now can easily be 

obtained from dealers in herbaceous plants at home. 

Trillium gnuidifloruin has large snow-white flowers, 

and is the most beautiful of the sixteen species. 

1 Dandelion Clocks, by Mrs. J. H. Ewing. 

90 IRambles witb Mature Stufcents 

The illustration is drawn from Trillium erectuin, 
which is called in America beth-root, Indian balm, 
and lamb's quarters. It has green bracts striped 
with purple and reddish-purple perianth leaves. 
From its root a medicine is prepared which is 
valued for its curative properties. 

This wood-lily is perfectly hardy, only requiring 
a light soil and a shady damp situation. It comes 
up year after year, appearing in April and flowering 
early in May. 


In this month so many different trees produce 
their flowers or catkins that we must be on the 
alert to study them before they fall to the ground 
or are blown away by the wind. 

Nature keeps us breathless in the attempt to over- 
take her marvellous energy. Every day something 
fresh appears ; wild flowers are springing up, buds 
are opening, even early horse-chestnuts are to be 
met with in full leaf, and growth is so rapid under 
the increasing warmth of the sun that sprays of 
opening buds which we may be wishing to paint 
are expanded into leaves before we have time to 
record their beauty in an early stage. Amongst 
other trees we must not fail to notice the hanging 
sprays of larch with their yellow stamen-bearing 
flowers, the pollen from which falling upon the 
delicate crimson blossoms on the same spray will 
enable them to become the cones of next autumn, 
the wind being the agent in this process. 

Many years ago, before the cultivation of the larch 
was understood, two seedling plants were sent to the 


Duke of A thole ; and his gardener, with the best 

intentions, treated them as hothouse 

plants, which speedily brought them 

to such a dying condition that 

they were thrown away upon a 

rubbish heap. Hardly had they 

taken up this ignominious station 

when they revived and began to 

grow. When I visited Dunkeld 

many years ago the guide pointed 

out with pride two magnificent 

larches, which were the aforesaid 

specimens now flourishing under 

favourable conditions. 

The larch is a native of the Alps, 
and the roofs of the picturesque 
chalets in Switzerland are covered 
with shingles cut from this tree, 
the turpentine which exudes from 
the wood, tending to make these 
roofs impenetrable to rain. 

No one can fail to be struck 
with the curious catkins on the 
beech. The female blossom, which 
will become the beech-nut, is seated 
on the spray, whilst the male 
catkins hang down in clusters, 
shedding out their pollen upon every 
passing breeze. 

The beech tree usually flowers 
every alternate year, so that possibly 
we may light upon a tree with 
leaf-buds only, and must then search further for 
another specimen bearing its catkins. 



92 IRambles witb IRature Students 

The limits of space will not admit of a special 
notice here of other trees ; but knowledge of the 
fact that this is the flowering season will lead to 




some enjoyable study in hedgerows and woodlands. 
Let us not grudge some time and trouble spent 
in becoming acquainted with the inconspicuous but 
always interesting blossoms of our common trees. 

IVY-LEAVED TOAD-FLAX (Linaria cymbalaria) 

At this season the charming little ivy-leaved 
toad-flax may be found in the crevices of old walls, 
where its thread-like roots feed upon the decaying 
mortar. Penetrating deeply into the fissures of the 
brickwork, they both keep the plant firmly in its 
place and render it independent of cold, heat, and 
dryness. The cheery little plant holds its own and 
looks green and flourishing when prolonged drought 
is making other vegetation appear faded. 


The winter and spring rains soak into the 
mortar of an old wall, and the horizontal roots of 
the toad-flax, protected as they are between the 
layers of bricks, have their store of moisture to 
draw upon and keep the plant in health and 

if a root of this small creeper can be found 
within easy reach, it will repay a little careful ob- 
servation through the summer. It possesses several 
points of interest besides the delicate beauty of its 


tiny lavender and yellow flowers. It is closely 
related to the large snapdragons, but differs from 
them in having a spurred flower. 

From its wonderfully prolific growth, this plant 
is popularly known as mother of thousands, and its 
drooping slender stems throwing a sort of veil over 
crumbling masonry must have given rise to its 
other familiar name of maiden hair. 

The leaves are like miniature ivy, and when 
young are of a purple colour on the under side. 

94 Gambles witb Iftature Students 

The chief interest in watching this plant is to 
observe its remarkable mode of sowing its seed. 

As soon as the sm;ill capsule is formed it begins 
to turn towards the wall until it finds a crevice, 
and in that its places itself, just as we should put 
a small parcel on a shelf, and it remains secreted 
there until ripened by the warmth of sunlight, 
when the capsules split open, the seeds are shed 
out and lie upon the crumbling mortar, ready to 
germinate as soon as rain shall fall and afford 
them the needed moisture. 

I often show this plant to my young friends as 
affording a remarkable instance of vegetable instinct 
and adaptation. 

I am tempted to quote from Miss Ann Pratt's 
Flowering Plants of Great Britain an interesting 
incident connected with this humble flower. 

In 1850 a deputation waited upon the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer respecting the abolition of the 
window tax. 

A spray of Linaria, which had grown in the 
dark and produced only dwarfed and blanched 
leaves, was shown in contrast with another spray 
gathered from the same plant, which on its sun- 
lighted side was of a rich green and covered with 
flowers ; this mute appeal was well calculated to 
show the evil and depressing effect of darkened 
dwellings and the consequent cruelty of the window 


FROG-HOPPERS (Apkrofhora spumarid) 

1 Insects of mysterious birth 
Sudden struck my wondering sight, 
Doubtless brought by moisture forth, 
Hid in knots of spittle white ; 
Backs of leaves the burden bear, 
Where the sunshine cannot stray ; 
41 Wood seers" called, that wet declare, 
So the knowing shepherds say.' 


The enjoyment of our rambles in woodland and 
garden paths is somewhat marred just now by 
quantities of a white frothy substance hanging on 
the grass stems, which clings to our clothes and 
is decidedly unpleasant. It has long been known 
by the name of cuckoo-spit, although it has nothing 
whatever to do with the cuckoo or any other bird. 
The French evidently credit the frogs with this 
production, as their name for it is crachat de grenouilU> 
or frog-spit ; but this is also wide of the mark. 

If we examine some of the froth, we find a 
greenish white insect in the centre of each mass of 
it; this is a soft feeble creature, with small black 
eyes, the larva of the common frog-hopper. 

The perfect insect will be found in summer 
by thousands in hay fields and pastures. It has 
marvellous leaping powers, as great in proportion 
to its size as though a man could spring four 
hundred yards up into the air. 

The generic name Aphrophora means foam- 
bearing, in allusion to the little masses of froth 
in which the larvae abide. 

The female insect lays her eggs on grass stems, 
and when they are hatched the larvae drive their 

96 IRambles wttb mature Students 

probosces into the stems to obtain the sap on 
which they feed. The larvae eject a quantity of 
white frothy matter, in which they live and by 
which they are protected, until they become chrysa- 
lides, and eventually emerge as brown frog-hoppers. 

These creatures are closely related to the Aphides 
or green flies, and belong to the same order ; only 
an aphis has four transparent wings, and these 
lively hoppers have the upper pair of wings opaque 
and hard, more resembling a beetle than a fly. 

There are other branches of this family, such 
as the cuckoo-fly, which preys upon the succulent 
shoots of the hop-bine, the green frog-fly, which 
injures the potato, and many other species. They 
may all well be called pests, since they tend to 
mar the growing crops by sucking the juices of 
the plants, and from their activity and minute size 
are extremely difficult to exterminate, 


1 O June, O June, that we desire so, 
Wilt thou not make us happy on this day ? 
Across the river thy soft breezes blow 
Sweet with the scent of bean-fields far away, 
Above our heads rustle the aspens grey, 
Calm is the sky with harmless clouds beset, 
No thought of storm the morning vexes yet.' 

William Morris. 



[ESIDES the common honcy-bce, we 
possess in England many hundred 
species of what are called solitary bees. 
Their lives are extremely interesting, 
for many reasons. They live in all sorts of places, 
some in holes in our gravel walks, some in dry 
banks, where they form long, deep burrows in 
which they lay their eggs, and then close up the 
holes, leaving the young bees to find their own 
way out. Other species adopt ready-made holes 
in walls and brickwork, in which to rear their 
families. Empty snail-shells may often be found 
half full of dried mud placed there by one of 
these eccentric bees, and if we examine this deposit 
we shall find small cells, which are the cradles of 
the immature bees. A hollow bramble stem is 
the choice of the Mason bee (Osmia leucomelana). 
In this convenient circular chamber the bee sets 
to work and removes some of the pith till she has 
a clear space of five or six inches ; then, having 
prepared and masticated some substance which she 
knows to be suitable for the food of her grubs, 
she places a small quantity of it at the end of 
the hollow space and lays an egg in it, so that 


ioo iRambles witb mature Students 

when hatched the larva will only have to feed 

(Natural size\ 

and grow till it changes to a chrysalis. In that 
condition it remains through the winter, and comes 
out a perfect bee in the following June. Six or 

June 101 

eight eggs are thus laid in one bramble stem, each 
divided by a thin partition. 

I constantly see another of these very curious 
solitary bees at work on my rose trees. She is 
known as the Upholsterer bee {Megachilt centun- 
cularis), so called from her dainty fashion of lining 
her nest with rose leaves. The nests are not 
easily found, but I was fortunate enough to light 
upon a specimen, and could examine its curious 

The bee settles on the edge of a rose leaf, and 
holding it firmly between its forelegs, saws out a 
round piece of the leaf and flies away with it. 
About ten or eleven of these pieces are required 
to line the burrow the bee has scooped in the 
bank ; they are neatly fitted together without any 
sort of cement, and as they dry they curl up 
and form a neat little tunnel. In this the bee 
stores up the honey and pollen of thistles, which 
form a sweet and suitable food for her infant 
bees. When a sufficient number of eggs has been 
laid in the tunnel, the end is securely closed up 
with three pieces of leaf neatly joined together, 
and then, her work being completed, the mother 
flies away and leaves her nursery to manage for 

Some of the solitary bees are smaller than 
house flies, others are as large as humble bees ; 
some are jet-black, others are yellow or brown. 
They flourish in great variety through the spring 
and summer months, and their remarkably inter- 
esting habits should lead young people to inquire 
about them. 

As a guide in identifying the various species, I 

102 iRambles witb iRature Students 

would recommend British Bees, by W. E. Shuckard 
(published by Lovcll Reeve & Co.). With this 
book, a small net, and a magnifying glass, I can 
promise my readers a very fascinating pursuit for 
their summer rambles. 

The bees may be found on flowers, gravel walks, 
turf, old walls, and hedge banks ; they are easily 
caught, and can be kept under a glass until we 
have ascertained all we desire to know about them. 
Then we may set them at liberty, as we shall 
have learnt the appearance of each species, and 
can recognise them as we see them busily at work 
out of doors. 

Unless a dried collection of insects is really 
needed for scientific purposes, I always strongly 
discourage the indiscriminate killing of insects ; it 
seems to me that it must tend to blunt kind and 
tender feelings in young people, and it is really 
needless, except for those who are in training to 
become practical scientists. 

THE HOVERER-FLY (Syrphus plumosus) 

As the humble-bee fly is a harbinger of spring 
and one of the first insects we may see visiting 
the early blossoms of the year, so the hoverer-fly 
betokens the arrival of summer. It revels in the 
hottest sunshine, and is one of the most active, 
swift-winged creatures imaginable. 

The specimen I watched to-day was a Syrphus 
plumosus, one of the handsomest of the species. 
It is covered with yellow down, the wings having 
a few dark markings, and its general appearance 

June 103 

is so like a small humble bee that most people 
would take it to be one. 

This fly seems quite as intent upon studying 
me as I am to learn about it ; it poises in the 
air for a minute or two, staring at me, humming 
loudly and watching my every movement. It is 
quite curious to observe how stationary in the air 
the creature remains, its wings quivering with such 
exceeding rapidity that they are quite invisible, 
so that one is puzzled to imagine how the insect 
is supported in the air. Thus it will remain until 
I make some slight 
movement, when in- 
stantly the fly is gone, 
and my eye cannot 
trace its flight. 

One day I desired to 

make a drawing of a 

Syrphus, and I shall not Natural 

soon forget what an ** [ THE HOVERER-FLY. 

exercise of patience it 

was to capture it. I did succeed at last by a quick 

sweep of a gauze net, and my captive was detained 

for a while until I had taken its portrait, it had not 

the patient gentleness of the humble-bee fly, but 

continued to buzz and fuss in an angry manner 

until I was able to set it at liberty. 


If we observe creeping up the window panes 
or hovering over the flower beds some curious- 
looking flies, with very slender bodies and antennae 

io 4 IRambles witb mature Stufcente 

constantly quivering, we may know them at once 
to be ichneumon flies. They have a strange and 
cruel habit of laying their eggs in living cater- 
pillars and chrysalides, and they are ever on the 
watch to find some unfortunate insect which shall 
become a receptacle for their progeny. These flies 
are of all sizes, ranging from a minute creature 
like a small gnat up to the one figured in the 
illustration. When we consider that almost every 

(Parasitic upon wood-boring larvae.) 

insect has one (or more) enemy of this kind, we 
may imagine that ichneumons abound in our 
gardens, and when once our attention has been 
called to them, we shall quickly know them by 
sight. They are peculiarly restless insects, always 
prying into flowers, and running up and down the 
leaves in a never-ending search for their prey. 
They are doubtless of great use in keeping down the 
hosts of caterpillars that feed upon our vegetables ; 
and all through the spring and summer months 
this secret warfare is going on. 

June 105 

The ichneumon fly is furnished with a long 
thin ovipositor, which enables it to pierce the skin 
of the caterpillar and deposit a number of eggs 
in its body ; these hatch into minute grubs, which 
feed upon the internal organs of the caterpillar. 
The victim does not appear to suffer ; it goes on 
consuming its food and growing until the ichneumon 
grubs are nearly mature. They then attack its 
vital organs until the caterpillar dies, and the grubs, 
after turning into chrysalides, hatch into the perfect 

I well remember my surprise and disappointment 
some years ago when a caterpillar, from which 
I expected to rear a very beautiful moth, instead 
of turning into a chrysalis, suddenly became covered 
with small yellow cocoons, which, I need not say, 
presently turned into an unwelcome swarm of 
ichneumon flies. 

It was in this way that I first made the acquaint- 
ance of this tribe of insects ; and ever since I have 
been learning the immense variety of species which 
exist, and their subtlety in pursuing their prey. 

FLAX (Ltnum usitatissimuiri) 

The delicate pale blue flowers of the flax are 
now opening, and remind me afresh, not only 
of the beauty of this plant, but of its great 
usefulness also. We owe to the strong fibres of 
its stem our linen, cambric, lawn, lace, and thread ; 
its seeds, when crushed, produce the valuable 
linseed oil so much in use by artists, and 
required in house painting and in many trades 
and manufactures. 

106 iRambles wttb mature Stubents 

We all know the remedial effects of linseed-tea, 
and the value of the ground meal which forms 
soothing poultices to relieve inflammatory pain ; and 
finally when the oil has been pressed out of the 
seeds the mass of husk which remains is made into 
cakes, which form an excellent and fattening food 
for cattle. Surely we ought to look upon such a 
plant as this with admiring gratitude as we 
remember its many uses. 

Those who possess a garden or even a few pots 
upon a window ledge can easily grow their own 
flax plants by sowing a pinch of the seed in May. 

It only needs good soil and watering, in order 
to produce an abundance of its delicate blue flowers, 
and when they are over we can see for ourselves 
the round seed capsules, like little balls, which are 
alluded to in Exod. ix. 31 : 'The barley was in 
the ear, and the flax was boiled,' that is, swollen. 1 

This leads us to reflect upon the great antiquity 
of this plant, and its frequent mention in Scripture. 

It is believed that flax has been cultivated in 
Egypt for five thousand years, and great quantities 
of it must therefore have been grown, to supply 
the immense demand for mummy cloth, as it was 
invariably made of linen, either fine or coarse. 

From a reference in Ezek. xxvii. 7, we learn 
that sails for ships were made of linen ; which again 
shows that the fibre could be woven either into 
the finest cambric or a cloth of the coarsest and 
most durable nature. 

When the stems are mature they are dried and split, 
then steeped in water, and afterwards hackled into 

1 This derivation is taken from Professor $kxa* Etymological English 





by means 
to separ- 
ate the 
coa r se r 
and leave 
the fi n e 
which are 
fit for weaving 

The severe 
processes re- 
quired to make 
the stems into 

material for the loom have led to the 
flax-plant being used as an emblem of 
the Divine puposes of earthly trials. 
The Venerable Bede thus speaks of it : 
' The flax springs from the earth green 
and flourishing ; but through much 
rough usage, and with the loss of all 
its native sap and verdure, is at last trans- 
figured into raiment white as snow ; thus 
the more that true holiness is tried and 
afflicted the more brightly does its beauty 
come forth.' 

I must add one other thought in con- 
nection with this plant. The simple little 
lamp of sun-dried clay used by the village 
people in Palestine, is filled with olive oil, 
and burns by means of a few fibres of flax 

io8 IRamWes witb mature Stufcents 

inserted as a wick. When the supply of oil becomes 
exhausted this flax-wick gives out a pungent smoke, 
so that either more oil must be added or the lamp 

In Isa. xlii. 3 we find the promise, ' The smoking 
flax shall He not quench,' referring to the infinite 
mercy of the Saviour, who will cherish the least 
spark of grace in the human heart and foster it 
until the dimness passes into a shining light. 

The flax of commerce is extensively grown in 
Ireland, to supply material for the manufacture of 
linen ; it is also cultivated in some parts of Scotland, 
and may be found growing wild in fields and waste 
places in England, but it is not truly indigenous. 

Our only British species of flax is Linwn 
catharticum, or white flax. A graceful little plant 
growing about five inches high with small drooping 
white flowers. It is said to be violently poisonous. 

THE SNAKE-FLY (Raphidia Opkiopsis] 

The hot weather we have lately had has driven 
quantities of different kinds of flies indoors. Certain 
passage windows on the north side of this house 
are full of interest for me, as I find there quite 
an assortment of winged creatures, not the common 
house fly, but large and small ichneumons with 
their ever - quivering antennae, minute gall - flies, 
brilliant green and golden sun-flies and a host of 
others whose names and life-histories are as yet 
unknown to me. 

One very remarkable four-winged fly appeared 
amongst the throng about ten days ago It struck 



me as being rather rare, so I placed it in a glass 
globe, in order that I might become more intimately 
acquainted with its habits and manners. 

After some little searching amongst my books 
I found that I had captured a snake-fly, a most 
appropriate name for a creature with a long slender 
neck and a flattened, vicious-looking head, which at 
once suggests the idea of a viper. 

This fly is a highly sensitive little creature, it is 

(Snake-fly, Jive times not. size. Larva, six times not. size). 

on the alert the moment it sees or hears anything 
unusual, lifting up its little serpentine head, and 
glancing from side to side with much intelligence ; 
full of courage, also, for it will try to seize a small twig 
or anything held near it. Although its natural food 
consists of small insects, I find the snake-fly will 
eagerly accept little morsels of raw meat, upon which 
it fastens its powerful mandibles, and with a lens I 
can watch it evidently enjoying a hearty meal. 
Almost all flies are fond of sugar and honey, 

no iRambles witb mature Students 

so I offer these dainties as well as meat, and they 
appear to be highly approved. The larva of this 
fly lives under the bark of trees, where it, as well 
as the fly, feeds on minute insects. 

My specimen possesses a long ovipositor, which 
gives it a rather formidable appearance ; but I do 
not imagine that this organ could ever be used 
as a weapon of offence or defence ; it is simply a 
long tube, by means of which the insect is able 
to deposit its eggs in suitable crevices in the bark 
of trees. I had written thus far the description 
of my snake-fly when, a few days later, whilst 
sitting under a tree, there dropped upon the book 
I was reading a wriggling creature, which I saw 
at a glance must be the larva of the said fly. There 
was the snake-like head, the long neck and slender 
body, only no wings and no ovipositor. 

I secured my captive, and supplied it with some 
raw meat, which it pounced upon and devoured 
with avidity. Whether I can succeed in keeping 
the creature until it turns into a perfect snake-fly 
remains to be seen ; at any rate, I shall keep and 
feed it, hoping it may prosper in my hands. 


Those who do not possess a garden may like to 
know how much interest and pleasure can be derived 
from a window box, or even a few pots full of 
earth. If we like to have only colour and perfume, 
it is easy to select the plants we prefer, and either 
grow them from seed or by means of slips ; but 
I would suggest some other modes of turning the 

June in 

small space to account, some very simple experiments 
which will be both interesting and instructive. 

The early growth of a seed is seldom observed, 
because the process goes on underground, and there- 
fore out of our sight ; but by planting about a 
dozen broad beans in moist earth and taking them 
carefully up from time to time, we 
shall then see how they become 
plants. In a week's time we shall 
find that out of the dark spot on 
the bean a root is pushing out 
into the soil ; the tip is protected 
by what is called a root-cap ; it 
has to make its way through stones 
and earth particles, and as it wears 
away it is always being renewed 
from within. A little later we shall 
find that a shoot, called a plumule, 
is making its way up to the surface 
to reach the light. The growing 
point of this shoot is very tender, 
and as the existence of the plant 
depends upon its being uninjured 
it is protected in a curious way. 


The plumule is curved, as shown in BROAD BEAN. 

the drawing, and the bowed part 

of the stem docs the rough work of pushing through 

the earth until it reaches the .surface ; then the stem 

straightens, and the plumule grows on into a young 


A horse-chestnut and an acorn will show the early 
growth of two of our great forest trees. These can 
be grown very well in damp moss, which will enable 
us to watch the growth of the first shoot, until it 


IRambles witb Mature Stufcents 

divides into ' the branch which groweth 
upward and the root which groweth 

downward.' Tamarind 

seeds taken out of the 

preserve will grow readily, 

and have an amusing way 

of throwing off their seed- 
coats, and appearing on 

the surface of the soil like 

ivory buttons, and soon 

begin to show finely 

divided leaves of a most 

delicate green tint. Orange 

and lemon pips develop 

into charming little ever- 
green trees, and are well 

worth growing, as they 

will live for years in small 

china pots and form useful 

table ornaments. They 

require frequent sponging, 

to prevent dust from 

clogging the leaves, and 

the stems must be cleared 

of the brown scale insect, 

which sometimes attacks 

and injures orange and 

lemon trees. 

When our attention is 

called to any particular 
branch of nature's handiwork we are 
sure to go on making discoveries. SANGUINARIA. 
Watching the growth of seeds led me 
to study various plants in their early stages, and I 


June 113 

have had two extremely curious instances of leaf- 
folding recorded for my readers' benefit, as they are 
unusual plants not likely to be met with in ordinary 

In early spring the podophyllum sends up sturdy 
dark-brown shoots with a knob at the top, which 
afterwards develops with the flower, and the leaf is 
wrapped like a mantle around the stem. It has a 
ludicrous resemblance to a shivering form enveloped 
in an Inverness cape! 

The other plant, sanguinaria, possesses a delicate 
white flower, which is tenderly protected by an 
enfolding leaf sheltering it until it is fully expanded. 
These suggestions will, I hope, direct attention to 
the endless beauties of unfolding plants in early 

' That sunset ! look beneath the boughs, 
Over the copse beyond the hills ; 
How soft, yet deep and warm it glows, 
And heaven with rich suffusion fills ; 
With hues where still the opal's tint, 
Its gleam of prisoned fire is blent, 

Where flame through azure thrills ! ' 

Currer Bell, or Charlotte Bronte. 


HAVE in my museum a piece of amber 
in which some small flies with gauzy 
wings can be plainly discerned. Ages 
ago these insects must have alighted 
upon some resin oozing out of a pine tree, of a 
species that is now extinct (Pinus succinifer), and, 
held fast by the glutinous sap, they were embedded 
and enshrined there, until, in the course of time, the 
resin became mineralised into what we call amber. 
Although this substance is occasionally found 
in England and France and rather plentifully in 
Australia, the chief supply comes to us from the 
south-eastern shores of the Baltic. A forest of the 
amber-yielding pine must have existed there long 
ago. It is now submerged, and in calm weather 
the fossil trees and immense deposits of amber can 
be discerned on the ocean-floor. 

The amber fishers, clothed in leather and provided 
with hooked forks and hand nets, wade into the 
sea, and gather such fragments of amber as may be 
floating on the surface ; but the larger and finer 
pieces are obtained by rowing out from the shore 
and raising the masses of amber with pronged forks 
and nets. Even better results are obtained by 

us iRambles witb mature Students 

divers, who work under water for five hours at a 
time, prising up large blocks of amber from the 
weed and sand in which they are embedded ; these 
are hauled up to the boats and brought to shore. 

Amber is chiefly used 
for mouth-pieces for 
pipes, partly because of 
its smooth surface, and 
originally on account of 
the belief which prevails 
in Turkey that it cannot 
transmit infection. Some 
amber, like my own 
specimen, is as clear as 
FLIES IN AMBER. yellow glass, while other 

pieces are more or less clouded. The first mention 
of this substance is in Homer's Odyssey 

'An artist to my father's palace came, 
With gold and amber chains.' 

So we learn that necklaces of amber are of high 

As many as eight hundred different kinds of 
insects have been discovered embedded in amber, 
all formerly natives of warm climates, but now 

If a piece of amber is firmly rubbed upon flannel 
or cloth, it will become so electric as to attract small 
pieces of paper, which will adhere firmly to it. To 
this electric quality we may trace its Greek name of 
electron, from which our \vord electricity is derived. 

If we like to experiment with a piece of amber 
and apply it to a candle, it will burn, giving out a 

rather disagreeable odour and black smoke ; but 
if we blow out the flame, there then arises a white 
vapour, which exhales a pleasant aromatic scent. 

To this Milton refers when he says in Samson 

1 An amber scent 01 odorous perfume 
Her harbinger.' 

As may be gathered from numerous references 
in our old poets, the aroma of amber was used in 
the Elizabethan age to give gusto to foods and wines 
as well as to perfume garments. 


It has always been a source of interest to me to 
observe the various kinds of stones I meet with in a 
morning's ramble. Living, as I do, where quartzite 
pebbles abound, I am always being reminded that the 
sea once covered this place, although it now stands 
between 400 and 500 feet above it, and that it 
was by the sea's action that these stones were rolled 
backwards and forwards, until all their angles were 
smoothed away. In fact, they are exactly such as 
we may find on any sea beach at the present day. 

4 Where rolls the deep, there grew the tree ; 
O earth, what changes hast thou seen ? 
There, where the long street roars, hath been 
The silence of the central sea.' 

Common flints out of a chalk-pit are usually dark 
grey or black within the outer white crust ; but our 
quartzite flints are beautifully stained, banded, and 
veined, and partake of the nature of agate and 

120 iRambles witb Mature Students 

cornelian. When polished they form ornamental 
paper-weights, Red jasper, fit to be cut into seals, 
is also abundant here. 

Blocks of pudding-stone are occasionally exposed 
in our fields as the plough turns up the soil. This 
stone was once grey mud, into which pebbles large 
and small became embedded ; then, in process of 
time, the mass hardened into solid rock, which, when 


sawn into pieces, will take a fine polish, the stones in 
it looking much like plums in a pudding, hence its 
common name. 

Some of my readers may live in mountainous 
places where granite rocks exist ; these will afford 
an interesting subject for study. Granite consists 
mainly of three substances, the white or yellowish 
grains being quartz, the pink felspar, and the black 

In the Museum of Geology 1 in London we can sec 

1 This museum in Jermyn Street is always open and quite free of 

12 j 

case after case filled with specimens of polished 
granite of every description, and of great variety of 
appearance. That which is mainly felspar is bright 
pink or dark red ; some pieces are light grey as 
quartz predominates, and the darker kinds are full of 

I always glance at the heaps of stones by the 
roadside, since a very slight knowledge of geology 
tells me where they are likely to have come from, 
and an otherwise uninteresting walk along a dusty 

(showing orlhoclase crystals). 

road may be enlivened by a little thought about 
the materials of which the road itself is made. 

Even the kerbstones of the London streets, 
when washed clean by a heavy shower, reveal by 
their varied tints of grey, red or pink, that they 
have come from quarries in Scotland, Cornwall, 
Devonshire, or the Isle of Man. 

In the beautiful Cornish valley of Lamorna, blocks 
of granite measuring twenty-five feet in length by 
eleven feet in diameter have sometimes been cut, 
and the plinths for the railings of the British Museum 
came from the Carnsew quarries in Cornwall. 

122 iRambles witb mature Students 

Should any of my readers pay a visit to the Land's 
End, they will be able to observe in the curious 
columnar granite blocks on that coast the pieces 
of felspar (of the variety called orthoclase), sometimes 
as much as three inches in length, which give this 
granite a very distinct character. 

It is quite worth while to know something of 
the nature of the country in which we may happen 
to live ; to learn, for instance, whether the soil is 
gravel, chalk, clay, or sand. I am often surprised to 
find young people unable to answer an elementary 
question upon this point, because they have never 
given any thought to the subject. 

In some places it is easy to see at a glance of 
what the soil consists, every hedge-bank displaying 
either clay, stones, or chalk, as the case may be. 
Other places, especially on level ground, grass-fields, 
and arable land, do not reveal much about the 
nature of the subsoil. 

Railway cuttings, gravel pits, and excavations 
are aids to a knowledge of the soil which lies 
beneath the surface, and clay has an unpleasant 
way of insisting upon making itself observed, in 
the miry footpaths which make our walks so 
tiring in the winter months. 

These remarks may set some students thinking 
upon the simple problems of geology, to which I 
hope to return in next month's ramble. 

WILD TEASEL (Dipsacus sylvestris) 

If my readers can find a specimen of wild teasel 
growing in some hedge-bank they will, I think, be 
interested to hear a little about its structure and 


uses. It is a striking-looking plant, growing from 
four to six feet high with a straight stem and 
opposite leaves, which have the peculiarity of 
uniting at the base so as to form a cup-shaped 
receptacle, holding nearly half a pint of clear water. 
Into this liquid small insects fall and become decayed ; 
the wind also blows dust and dead leaves into the 
water, so that in time it becomes rich in organic 
matter. This is absorbed by the plant, and tends 
to nourish and strengthen its growth. 

These leaf-basins also 
serve another purpose. It 
is necessary that the flowers 
should be fertilised only by 
winged insects, and there 
seems little doubt that the 
water retained at the base 
of the leaves tends to 
isolate the central stem, 
and thus snails, slugs, and 
ants are prevented from 
crawling up to the flowers. 

The common cow parsnip 
has huge inflated sheaths 
at the base of its leaves, which contain water, both to 
nourish and protect the flowers in a similar manner. 

I have not met with the smaller species called 
fuller's teasel (Dipsacus fullonuui}. It is cultivated 
in some parts of England, and very extensively abroad 
in France, Austria, and other parts of Europe. 

I read in the Treasury oj Botany that in 1859 
we imported from France nearly nineteen million 
teasel-heads, valued at five shillings a thousand. 
The bristly seed-vessels are employed by manu- 


124 IRambles wttb IFlatiire Students 

facturcrs to raise the nap of cloth. The capsule 
consists of very sharp elastic points hooked at the 
end, and when rows of these spiky balls arc 
affixed to a small wooden frame they form a kind 
of currycomb, which when drawn over the surface 
of woollen cloth raises up a soft nap. 

(Natural size, to show bands oj florets'). 

The process has been imitated by machinery, but 
the fuller's teasel is, I believe, still extensively used. 
The poet Dyer alludes to this useful plant. 

' Soon the clothier's shears 
And burler's thistle skim the surface sheen.' 

A burler is a man who pulls out the ' burls,' or 
small knotted lumps in wool or thread. 


One other characteristic of the teasel 
is worthy of remark. The bristly flower- 
head expands its florets regularly. First 
a band of pale lilac will appear about 
the middle ; when that withers a row 
of florets above and then one below 


will expand ; 
but never 
can we find 
the handsome 
flower- head all 
expanded at 
once. It cau- 
tiously opens a 
little at a time 
until the insects 
have done their 
work and all the 
florets have been 

WILD SUCCORY (Cidwrium tutybus) 

Some plants seem to have a strong 
preference for dry, dusty roadsides 
and footpaths. The plantain, for 
instance, never flourishes more 
vigorously than on a well-trodden 
path, and the wild succory is another 

126 iRambtes witb Iftature Stufcents 

plant so associated with roadsides that the Germans 
call it ' keeper of the ways.' 

When growing wild, succory presents little beauty 
in its leafage ; its stiff, wiry stems spring up out of 
the hard chalky soil which it prefers and into which 
it sends down a long tap-root in order to collect all 
possible nutriment and moisture. Even its lovely 
sky-blue flowers have a tantalising way of growing 
without stalks, one here and one there, scattered 
along the stem, so that we cannot form a bouquet 
of them ; and almost as soon as they are gathered 
they close up, before we have time to admire their 
beauty. They need not, however, be thrown away, 
for they will expand again in water if placed in 

Succory takes its place among the flowers 
included by Linnaeus in his floral clock, formed of 
such plants as opened and closed their blossoms 
at certain hours of the day. It is an early riser, 
and greets the morning sun with its star-like 
flowers between four and five o'clock. 

'On upland slopes the shepherds mark 

The hour when, as the dial true, 
Cichorium to the towering lark 
Lifts her soft eyes serenely blue.' 

As if to make up for this early blossoming, the 
petals begin to close between nine and ten in the 
morning, and the plant sleeps for the rest of 
the day. 

I have given the hours as observed by Linnaeus at 
Upsala. They are probably different in England, 
and on cloudy days the flowers scarcely open at all. 

Some years ago I dug up a root of wild succory 
and had it planted in my garden in good soil and in 
a sunny aspect In the course of years it has amply 
repaid me by growing into a sturdy plant three or 
four feet high ; and in this month, when it is always 
covered with its star-like, exquisite blue flowers, it 
forms one of my cherished garden treasures. 

Chicory or succory is largely grown for the sake of 
its tap-root, which, when dried and ground, is used 
to mix with coffee. 

The endive we use for salads is an allied species, a 
biennial plant derived originally, I believe, from 
Cichoriuin piuiiilinn, a wild plant still found commonly 
along the shores of the Mediterranean. 


Towards the end of this month every little stream 
abounds with insect life. Of this there may be no 
appearance on the surface, but a few sweeps with a 
muslin net will bring to light a variety of interesting 

Provided with a canful of water and a net, I 
went off this morning to my pond to see what 1 
could discover. Passing the net through some water- 
weed, I was not long in finding greyish-green 
beetles leaping vigorously in my net ; these were the 
water-boatmen (Notonecta glanca). The body of this 
insect is shaped just like a boat, and the two long 
hind legs with which it propels itself are feathered 
like oars. This beetle swims on its back, and 
spends much of its time resting on the surface of the 
water, diving now and then to catch some insect on 
which it feeds. 

128 IRambles with IRature Stubentd 

I hardly liked to touch a sluggish crawling grub 
which was burying itself in the mud that I had 
brought up in my first haul from the pond. This 
creature, however, proved well worth examination, for 
it was a dragon-fly larva, provided with a remarkable 
lobster-like claw with which to seize its prey. As 
the grub lies concealed in the mud some insect 
approaches it, and as soon as its prey is within reach, 
the claw, which has been folded up out of sight, is 
darted out and secures the insect with unerring aim. 

(Natural size). 

I was presently fortunate enough to secure several 
of the larger kind of beetles, and amongst them 
Dytiscus marginalis^ the male possessing smooth 
brown wing-cases and the female having furrowed 
elytra. The curious discs upon the fore-legs of these 
insects are worthy of notice, for they possess the 
function of suckers, and enable the beetle to fix itself 
firmly to any solid substance. 

Securing one of these beetles in a jug, I tried to 
pour it and the water into a glebe, but the beetle, 

I2 9 

to my surprise, remained at the bottom of the jug, 
holding itself firmly there by its suckers. 

(Natural size). 

The larva of this genus is well named water-lion, 
for it is fiercely voracious, preying upon all kinds of 


i3o IRambles wttb IRature Students 

other water insects, and has a peculiarly repulsive 
aspect, with its pair of curved cruel-looking jaws 
and flat snake-like head. When I tease it with a 
piece of twig it flies at it, and will defend itself when 
attacked with a dogged sort of courage. It always 
seems to me like a shark amongst the milder 
inhabitants of the pond. 

I must not be tempted further to describe what 
our net brings to light. If we place our captures 
in a globe of water, and then read about them in 
some handbook to natural history, we shall not fail 
to learn many interesting facts about the curious 
habits of the creatures inhabiting our ponds and 

The quiet August noon has come ; 
A slumberous silence fills the sky, 
The fields are still, the woods are dumb, 
In glassy sleep the waters lie. 
And mark yon soft white clouds that rest 
Above our vale, a moveless throng ; 
The cattle on the mountain's breast, 
Enjoy the grateful shadow long.' 



(Acrida viridissimd] 

S the fields are now teeming with grass- 
hoppers, large and small, it will be 
quite easy and well worth while to 
capture a few, and note their curious 
form and varied markings. Those we find in the 
meadows are usually of the same tint of green as 
the grass on which they feed ; but if we collect 
these insects from a bare chalky soil, they will be 
grey-coloured, so as to imitate the general tone of 
the ground they rest upon. 

There is also a very handsome species, which is 
a tree-dweller, and may be found at this season in 
some localities by shaking oak branches ; in other 
places I hear of their being caught in hazel hedges 
and on sunny banks, where they are easily secured 
with a small butterfly-net. 

I kept a specimen of this insect a few years ago, 
and find it a very interesting pet. A glass globe 
covered with a piece of net forms a suitable home 
for it, and although it prefers flies and small insects, 
it will eat raw meat and succulent cabbage-stalks. 

No one could fail to admire the exquisitely 
brilliant green of this insect with its golden eyes, 


ij4 IRambles wttb mature Stufcente 

and its long delicate wings, which, however, it docs 
not seem to use except when they are expanded to 
break the force of its fall from tree branches. The 
antennae are long and tapering, and my specimen, 
being a female, possesses an extended ovipositor. 

This species measures from two and a half to 
three inches from head to tail, and taking into 


account its size and brilliant colouring, it is perhaps 
one of the most striking of our British insects. 

Its habits are very dainty, every speck of dust is at 
once removed from its legs and feet ; the tapering 
antennae are drawn through its feelers, and they 
also cleanse the delicate wing-cases. In fact, as one 
watches all this going on, one is led to wish that all 
human beings could be persuaded to learn from this 
lowly creature to perform their toilets as carefully. 

BIRD'S-FOOT TREFOIL (Lotus corniculatus) 

Seeing the sparrows busily feeding upon the seed- 
pods of the bird's-foot trefoil, which grows much too 
freely upon my lawn, I have been led to-day to reflect 

Hucjust 135 

upon the great value to wild birds of the various 
weeds which cover every piece of waste ground. 

The many weeks of dry weather we have had 
this summer have brought the birds almost to 
starvation point. The lawns are hard and cracked 
with the continual sunshine, so that the thrushes 


and blackbirds can find no worms or slugs, and 
very naturally they resort to the fruit gardens in 
the absence of other food. 

The mountain ash and elderberries are also eagerly 
sought for and devoured, and then weeds are resorted 
to, and keep the famished birds alive until the 
welcome rains restore their accustomed insect diet. 

i3 r > IRambles wttb mature Stubents 

Few people seem to know that wild birds need 
feeding quite as much in a long dry summer as in 
a hard winter, and a pan of water is also a great 
luxury to our feathered friends. All kinds of finches 
feed greedily upon thistle seeds, and many other 
species seek for their favourite chickweed and 
groundsel, plantain, vetches, and hawkweed. 

Other weeds are the resort of shy birds that we 
seldom see in the act of feeding, because their keen 
sight and hearing give them warning of our approach, 
and they slip away under cover until we have passed by. 

Wild pigeons, if they do a great deal of harm in 
eating more than their share in the corn-fields, also do 
some good by feeding upon charlock or wild mustard, 
one of the most troublesome weeds the farmer has 
to contend with. They also eat the seeds of various 
polygonums which are sure to abound in fallow land. 

We see then that weeds are really wayside provisions 
for the feathered tribes, and fulfil an important office 
in maintaining their lives when other resources fail. 

The illustration shows the resemblance between 
the trefoil pods and a bird's foot, hence the appro- 
priateness of its name. It is a happy time for 
the humble bees when this plant, with its pretty 
yellow blossoms, is out in flower the lawn is so 
covered with the busy little insects one can hardly 
walk without treading upon them. 


A curious fungus known as the maned agaric 
(Coprinus comatus] is now growing in abundance in 
a grassy nook behind some evergreens, where it 



always makes its appearance in the course of the 

It is like a cone-shaped mushroom of snowy 
whiteness, with a few brown specks on the upper 
part of the cap. When the stem is four or five 
inches high, the lower part of the cap becomes 
fringed, and begins to drop a jet-black liquid, which 
creates a dark ring upon the 
ground. So long ago as August 
1888 it struck me that this liquid 
might be utilised, and accord- 
ingly I tried an experiment in 
the manufacture of ink. The 
agarics were placed in a basin 
over night, and by the next 
morning I found they had melted 
into a quantity of ink as jet 
black as I could desire. The 
lines I wrote with this liquid are 
as bright and clear to-day as 
they were when first penned 
eleven years ago. 

The only preparation needed 
is that the ink should be boiled, 
strained, and then have the 
addition of a little corrosive 

sublimate, to prevent any fungoid growth. The 
specimen bottleful I made in 1888 has remained 
clear and usable to this day. 

It is singular that a substance so exquisitely white 
as this fungus is in its early stage should when 
melting away become of such an inky blackness. 
It is a circumstance about which I can offer no 


138 IRambles wttb IRature Students 


Walking last evening in a field where 
the long flowering stalks of grass were 
swaying to and fro in the breeze, I 
was struck by what seemed 
a small grey blossom hanging 
upon one of them, and look- 
ing more closely I found it 
was a blue butterfly 
which had gone to 
sleep upon the 
grass stem. Passing 
on a little further, 
I found dozens of 
the exquisite little 
creatures with 
folded wings 
quietly rest- 
ing until the 
them to 
new life 


mor n- 
i n g 
w a s 

heavy rain and a 
high wind, and I 
was rather curious 
to know how the 
butterflies had 
so when there 
came a lull in the storm 
I made my way to the field, 
and there were the fragile 
little insects being blown 
hither and thither on the 
grass stalks, but evidently 
quite unharmed by wind and 

I could but admire the in- 
stinct which had guided these 
frail creatures in their choice 
of a resting-place ; had they 
been roosting in trees or shrubs, 
a blow from a large leaf flap- 
ping to and fro would have 
been fatal to them, but on the 
slender grasses they bent before 

Huoust 139 

the gale and swung in their aerial cradles quite 

Another point of interest is that the bright azure 
of their upper wings, which would have made them 
a conspicuous mark for a passing bird to feast upon, 
was entirely concealed whilst they were thus at rest, 
the wings being closely folded and bent down, so that 
the finely spotted under-wings alone were seen, and 
made the tiny butterfly look like a part of the grass 

The calm confidence of these pretty insects brought 
to my mind a saying of Martin Luther, as he called 
attention to a young bird asleep upon a spray. 
' This little fellow has chosen his shelter, and is 
quietly rocking himself to sleep, without a care for 
to-morrow's lodgings, calmly holding by his little 
twig and leaving God to think for him.' 


A long period of drought is now rather seriously 
affecting vegetation. Without moisture, the roots of 
plants cannot send up the needful supplies of food 
into the stem and leaves ; exhaustion consequently 
ensues, and the outward sign of a starved condition is 
seen in the drooping position of the leaves. 

Where the leaf-stalk joins the stem there is a 
flexibility of tissue which admits of the leaf being 
raised or lowered. In some trees and plants there 
exists at the base of the leaf stalk (or petiole) a 
swollen articulation which is called a pulvinus. It 
it almost like a hinge, and enables the leaf to hang 
down or rise to an entirely upright position. 

We may see this hinge in action by touching a 

IRambies witb nature Students 

sensitive plant, when before our eyes the leaf rapidly 
descends and the leaflets fold together. 

Where this plant cannot be observed, the same 
effect can be noted by examining a clover plant in the 
morning, when all its leaves will be erect ; and visiting 
the same plant in the evening, each leaflet will be found 
hanging down and folded together in its nightly sleep. 

The illustration shows the effect of drought upon 


rhododendron leaves. This pendent foliage has a 
strangely depressing effect upon the 
spirits ; it is as though all nature 
was sorrowing, and trying to express 
her mournful condition. 

As far back as the time of the 
Egyptian dynasties, the upward 
tending line was always chosen as 
the expression of joy and gladness, 
typified by a man with uplifted 
hands, that being the hieroglyph to 

express rejoicing. The upward curves of a smiling 




Hugust HI 

mouth, and the sad effect when the lips are drawn down- 
wards, illustrate the same truth. For the same reason we 
call a tree whose branches all droop towards the ground 
a weeping willow, birch or elm, as the case may be. 

Keeping this principle in mind as we take our 
rambles will afford a fresh subject for thought, and 
we shall find many other illustrations confirming this 
fact, which I have not space to touch upon now. 


In a previous note I spoke of some points of 
interest in the formation of granite rocks, and what 
we may discover in gravelly soils. Let us now 
suppose ourselves in a limestone country, with its 
granite cliffs and caverns. 

It was a delightful surprise to me to find that I 
could actually pick up fossils in the streets at Buxton, 
which are mended with broken limestone ; I thus 
obtained quite a variety of museum specimens in the 
course of a morning's walk. There are, I believe, 
more than six hundred species of fossil shells to be 
found in mountain limestone, besides the remains of 
fishes, corals, and plants. 

Derbyshire abounds in curious caverns, where we 
may see the growth of stalactites from the roof. 
These are formed by the constant dripping of water 
containing calcareous matter, which encrusts into long 
spikes like icicles. The drops continually falling from 
them also concrete upon the floor of the cavern, and 
form masses of what is called stalagmite. 

I met with a still more curious form of this deposit 
in a cavern at the Cheddar Cliffs. The dripping lime 
water had there taken the form of a curtain, and hung 

M2 IRambles wttb nature Stubents 

from the roof in graceful folds ; it was so translucent that 
the light of a torch, held by the guide, shone through 
as though it were formed of horn or tortoise-shell. 

Alabaster is another form of limestone ; this is a 
sort of calcareous spar, soft enough to be easily carved 
into statuettes and other ornaments. 

Some years ago, when I was visiting a little seaside 
resort called Blue Anchor in Somersetshire, I was 
much interested in observing that a part of the sea 
cliff there contained a vein of alabaster of various 
shades of pink and red. Although it is found in 
many places in England in strata in the earth, or in 
caverns, I do not know of any other locality where 
alabaster can be seen and obtained so easily as at this 
particular spot. 

As I am only trying to point out a few interesting 
geological specimens which my readers may find for 
themselves, I will pass over the various kinds of 
marbles forms of limestone which need to be quarried 
out of the earth, and which are seldom to be met 
with in a day's ramble. 

Where building operations are going on we may 
often obtain small pieces of the Bath, Portland or 
Caen stone, which are used so much for pillars and 
ornamental sculpture. 

The additional names of oolite and roe-stone have 
been given to these forms of limestone, because they 
appear to consist of small round grains or eggs, such 
as compose the roe of a fish. 


When we read of the oak trees mentioned in 
Scripture we are apt, very naturally, to picture 
them with large, bright green leaves of the size 

Hugust HS 

and shape of our English oaks ; but as this is 
contrary to fact I will describe the Eastern tree, 
that we may realise its appearance more accurately. 
An acorn, gathered on Mount Tabor, was grown 
by a friend of mine till the little specimen was 
old enough to be transplanted into my garden, 


where it now occupies an honoured place. Its 
leaves seldom exceed an inch and a half in length, 
of a dark green, with prickles round the edges. 

Unlike our English oaks, which shed their leaves 
in autumn, these trees are evergreen, and only 
mark the change of seasons by throwing out pale 

144 IRambles witb Mature Students 

green shoots in spring. The acorn is small, and 
has a somewhat prickly cup. 

There are three species of oak in Palestine ; the 
one I possess is Quercus pseudococcifera, which grows 
abundantly in Syria. Abraham's Oak near Hebron 
belongs to this species ; it measures twenty-three 
feet in girth, and the branches are spread over a 
space ninety feet in diameter. During the severe 
winter of 1894-5, the weight of snow broke off one 
of its huge branches, which, when sawn up, furnished 
sufficient wood to load seven camels. 

We owe the ink with which we write to another 
Syrian oak (Quercus infectoria}. A small fly 
punctures its twigs, causing irritation in the flow 
of the sap, and gall-nuts are formed in consequence. 
These nuts abound in tannic and gallic acid, and 
in combination with sulphate of iron and gum they 
form the constituents of our writing ink. 

I have in my museum some of the huge acorn 
cups of the valonia oak, the third species, known 
as Quercns cegilops ; this tree is of great value, as 
its fruit is much used and largely imported for 
dyeing purposes as well as ink-making. 

We read in Acts xx. 13, that St. Paul, parting 
from his disciples at Troas, was to meet them again 
at Assos (to 'which place they were going by ship) ; 
he, 'minding himself to go afoot,' would, in making 
this journey, pass through groves of valonia oaks, 
which abound in that part of Asia Minor. 

I like to think of the great apostle taking that 
quiet woodland walk, possibly the last opportunity 
he ever enjoyed for undisturbed meditation and 
thought, alone amidst the beauty of nature. 



' For me, who under kindlier laws belong 
To Nature's tuneful quire, this rustling dry 
Through leaves yet green, and yon crystalline sky, 
Announce a season potent to renew, 
'Mid frost and snow, the instinctive joys of song, 
And nobler cares than listless summer knew.' 



HEMP (Cannabis sativa) 

EMP is such a graceful plant that it 
would be well worth cultivating in our 
gardens, if it were only for its rich green 
leafage ; but my hemp bed has now an 
additional charm, in that its ripe seeds attract all 
kinds of small birds, which haunt the slender stems, 
flitting in and out in search of the coveted provender. 
Four species of titmice are especially active, and may 
be seen all day long, generally head downwards, 
creeping about like little mice, twittering cheerfully 
to each other as they pursue their busy search. 
These charming birds abound in my old garden, 
owing to my having attracted them to the place for 
the last thirty years by keeping a little basket filled 
with fat outside my dining-room window. This 
basket has been well known from time immemorial 
to the successive generations of tits in the 

These birds need a diet of fat in the winter months 
to enable them to bear the cold, just as the natives in 
the Arctic regions feed on blubber or whale fat 
to supply themselves with the warmth needed to 
sustain life. 

It has been a great pleasure to me and to my 

148 IRambles witb Iftature Students 

friends to watch, not only the titmice, but robins, 
chaffinches, wrens, and nuthatches enjoying the 
contents of this basket. Fascinating bird pictures 
are formed as angry little skirmishes arise, crests are 
raised and wings outstretched in vehement protest 
against undue greediness. 

Some years ago I placed an empty coco-husk 
above the basket; it had a small entrance hole at 
one end, and, as I expected, a blue titmouse built 


its nest and laid five eggs in it. The bird was tame 
enough to allow me to lift down the husk and show 
to young visitors the little mother sitting on her nest. 
When the eggs were hatched the busy parents 
were hard at work from early morning till late 
in the evening bringing green caterpillars and small 
grubs to feed their young family. Knowing that 
the feeding process began with daylight, and 

September 149 

continued without ceasing until dusk, I was able 
to make a calculation as to the number of caterpillars 
destroyed by a single pair of these birds in one week, 
and I found it amounted to about seven thousand six 
hundred. We can therefore judge of the value of 
such birds in ridding our gardens of insect pests. 

When the young blue-tits were fledged and were 
leaving the coco-husk one by one to begin life for 
themselves in the tree branches, I retained one for a 
little while, that I might take its portrait (as seen 
in the illustration), and fearing lest it might suffer 
from hunger, I placed it at intervals in a cage on the 
lawn, where I had the pleasure of watching the 
affectionate parents come back to feed it through the 
bars. The drawing was soon completed, and I need 
hardly say the little one was allowed to have its liberty. 


' The distant owl 
Shouteth a sleepy shout, 
And the voiceless bat, more felt than seen, 
Is flitting round about.' 

Coventry Patmore. 

A long-eared bat was brought to me to-day ; it 
had been found in a window-box amongst some 
flowering plants. When bats will eat either flies 
or raw meat, one can keep them as pets as long 
as may be desired, and very curious and interesting 
they are. This one obstinately refuses food of any 
kind ; I therefore have placed it in some ivy branches, 
so that when evening comes it may take wing and 
feed itself. 

I remember keeping a similar specimen in my 
childhood, which became very tame and amusing. 

150 Gambles witb IKlature Students 

I had more time then to catch flics for it, and 
it consumed at least forty bluebottles daily. This 


fact shows us how useful bats are in keeping down 
the insect hosts throughout the summer and autumn. 

September 151 

Some of the old trees in my woods have 
hollow stems, and in these bats congregate in large 
numbers : we are reminded of the fact by the 
powerful and far from agreeable odour these trees 
emit as we pass. 

The illustration shows a long-eared bat when 
resting head downwards. A moment or two after 
alighting it folds up its long ears and places 
them nearly out of sight under its arms, and then 
the little creature looks like a mere ball of grey fur. 

When on the ground a bat can only scuttle along 
in a very awkward fashion, as if on hands and knees, 
and finds great difficulty in taking flight from a 
level surface. 

I have sometimes watched a bat in my room 
where, on warm summer nights, they occasionally 
pay me a visit, and I observe that it generally 
makes its way to a curtain, and climbs up by its 
hooked wings until it is high enough to dart off 
into the air. 

Bats should never be wantonly destroyed, for they 
are perfectly harmless and extremely useful. They 
carry on at night the work that swallows are doing 
throughout the day clearing the air of millions of 
flies, gnats and moths, which would otherwise be 
a torment to us and very injurious to the farmer 
and gardener. 


I have been fascinated this morning by seeing one 
of nature's lovely wayside pictures. On the pale lilac 
flower-heads of a tall scdum six or seven richly-tinted 
butterflies sat basking in the warm sunshine. 

152 IRambles witb IRature Students 

Peacocks, red admirals, and tortoiseshells form a 
most beautiful mosaic of colour on the soft mauve 
flowers, and the tints are ever varying as the wings 
open and shut and reveal the dark, yet brilliant, 
markings of the under wings. 

There must be something very attractive in the 
honey of this particular stonccrop, for its blossoms 
are the resort of insects of all kinds ; bees, wasps, 
and flies hover over them all through the hours of 
sunlight, quite a busy throng ever coming and going. 

I like to take a seat for a while near this 
plant, in order to watch the characteristics of 
different insects. Some are very business-like, they 
come for honey only, interfere with nobody, and 
go away as soon as they are satisfied ; others 
are winged busybodies, buzzing around disturbing 
peaceable visitors, themselves idle and interfering 
with those who desire to pursue their own quiet work. 

The butterflies are busily engaged, each drawing 
up nectar with its long proboscis, enjoying sunlight 
and sweet food. Perhaps they even possess a touch 
of vanity, and are conscious of some pleasure in 
exhibiting their lovely wings. If so, they may surely 
be excused, seeing how truly beautiful they are. 

It is well worth while to search amongst nettle 
leaves in early summer in order to find some of 
the jet-black, prickly caterpillars from which these 
handsome butterflies develop, and by keeping them 
in a box, well supplied with nettle leaves daily, we 
may see for ourselves the curious chrysalides \vhich 
shine as if made of gold leaf and hang suspended 
head downwards, held securely by the small hooks 
with which the pointed end of the chrysalis is 
provided. Then in due time out come the ex- 

September 153 

quisite butterflies ; their delicate wings, unspoiled 
by wear and tear, show their bright colours to 
perfection. Perhaps my greatest pleasure is ulti- 
mately to set the captives free, and see them soar 
away into space to enjoy their brief life of summer 
flowers and sunshine. 


We are now being reminded of the approach of 
autumn by the appearance of various species of 
toadstools. They spring up in the woods, on our 
lawns, or on decaying tree-stems ; and as the wild 
flowers and fruits are nearly over, we shall find in 
them a new and extremely interesting field of study. 

Let us collect and examine some of the different 
kinds of fungi we meet with so abundantly in our 
daily walks. 

Seeing that there are considerably over a thousand 
species of named fungi, ranging from the microscopic 
films and moulds which appear on decaying fruit, 
stale bread and other substances, up to the giant 
puff-ball, which sometimes measures a foot in dia- 
meter, it is clear that we shall only have space for 
a few general remarks upon the commoner species 
of fungi we are likely to meet with. 

We are all familiar with the edible mushroom 
(Agarzcus cattipestris], so we will select it as a 
type of the agarics, of which I believe there are 
several hundred species. It is well to know the 
right terms to use in describing a fungus, so we 
will trace the growth of one from its beginning, and 
learn the parts of which it consists. 

If we dig up a mushroom and examine it 

154 "(Rambles wttb IRature Stubents 

carefully, we shall find that it has sprung from a 
network of white threads, which is called the spawn 
or mycelium. Resting here and there upon this 
network are small nodules, which will grow into 
mushrooms in due time ; they first appear above 
the ground as white balls, which, as they rise up 
and gradually expand, divide into two parts, namely, 


the cap, which is botanically called the pileus, and 
the stem or stipes. 

We notice next a thin membrane which envelops 
the cap. This is torn away as the pileus enlarges ; 
part of this veil or volva remains on the stem, and 
is .called the annulus, and part clings to the outer 
edge of the cap 

We take off the top of the mushroom and reverse 
it, and now we see thin plates or gills radiating 
from the centre of the cap. If we cut one of these 

September 155 

gills out and lay it on a sheet of white paper, we 
shall find after a few hours a quantity of dark 
brown grains, which are called spores. From these 
arises the mycelium, from which the mushroom 
springs. These spores vary in colour in different 
species ; some are pure white, some are purple, 
some have different shades of brown. They also 
vary in size, but are usually so exceedingly minute 


that one writer declares a single fungus can produce 
as many as ten million spores. 

Thus far my description has applied to the 
agaricini or gill-bearing fungi, but we will now 
turn to the second order, the polyporei or spore- 
bearing fungi. 

Under a large tree on my lawn I find this autumn 
a great abundance of toadstools about the size, 
shape, and colour of penny buns. If I cared to 

156 1Raml)les witb nature Students 

experiment in that line, I know they would make 
a perfectly wholesome dish for the table, as they 
are the well-known Boletus edulis. 

The pileus is a rich shining brown colour above, 
but when we examine it beneath we shall see, instead 
of the gills of the agaric order, an orange- coloured 
spongy substance consisting of tubes or spores. 

Other species of this order are woody excrescences 
growing out of decaying tree-stems. A material 


called amadou, used for making fusees, is obtained 
from several kinds of polyporus. Yet another species 
is Merulius lacrymans, so well known by the name 
of ' dry rot,' which is far too frequently met with 
in old timbered houses. 

As the threads of the mycelium penetrate the 
wood, they reduce it at last to a state of absolute 
rottenness. This process may go on quite secretly for 
years, but suspicious cracks become apparent in our 



wainscot, and when some panels are removed there 
we see visible evidence of dry rot. Large patches of 
a grey velvety substance are spreading everywhere, 
covered with drops of water which gives the specific 
name of lacrymans (weeping) to this most destructive 

In the third order of fungi we find beneath 
the pileus spiny projections or teeth. If we 
happen to light upon Hydnuin 
repanduin, a species not un- 
common in woods and damp 
shady places, we can observe in 
it a good specimen of this 
structure. Then again we notice 
the curious Clavarias, mauve- 
coloured, white, yellow and bluish 
grey, which spring up on our lawns 
at this season. They dry very 
readily, and form interesting sub- 
jects for a collection. 

Pezizas are also worth searching 
for. I found a brilliant orange-coloured one on our 
common to-day, and could not resist bringing it in, so 
as to watch it giving out its spores when breathed 
upon. They are shot out like little jets of smoke, 
and it is amusing to see the fungus thus energetically 
sowing itself far and wide. 

Any of my readers who may desire further 
information on this subject will find in Dr. M. C. 
Cooke's British Fungi an excellent guide into this 
field of special study to which the specimens of 
to-day have drawn our attention. 


158 TRambles wttb IRatute Students 


' And hear the emerald-coloured waters falling 
Through many a woven acanthus- wreath divine.' 


I always look with interest at this handsome plant, 
with its finely shaped, glossy green leaves. It is not 
merely its beauty as a foliage plant that attracts me, 
but I am reminded of the many classic associations 
which have clustered around it. 


It is said that the graceful form of these acanthus 
leaves and their mode of growth suggested to Calli- 
machus, a sculptor who lived nearly four hundred 
years before Christ, the first idea for the decoration of 
the capital of the Corinthian column. It is easy to 
suppose that some vase or basket accidentally over- 
grown by this plant would furnish an excellent model 
to an observant eye ; and skilful hands would soon 

September 159 

adapt the curved leaves into the sculptured decoration 
we so much admire in buildings ancient and modern. 
Acanthus leaves appear in the dresses of the figures 


on Etruscan vases, and they were often cut out in 
purple cloth, and formed into richly embroidered 
borders for Roman garments. 

I have given a drawing of this plant, since it may 

160 Gambles witb Mature Stubents 

be of interest to my readers, when they pay a visit to 
any museum of antiquities and sculpture, to endeavour 
to trace the many ways in which these beautiful 
leaves have been used for decorative purposes. 

BROOM-RAPE (Orobanche speciosa) 

About one hundred species of these parasitic plants 
appear to be known. Strange uncanny growths, 
deriving their nourishment as they do from the roots 
of other plants, we may fairly regard them as the 
thieves and vagabonds of the vegetable kingdom. 
It is not difficult to find certain of our English 

The lesser broom-rape grows abundantly in clover 
fields and on gravelly heaths ; the tall brownish 
spikes of the OrobancJie major can readily be dis- 
covered growing on various plants, such as broom, 
furze and other species which bear pea-shaped flowers. 

Some seeds of broom-rape from Southern Europe 
having been sent to my gardener, he tried the 
experiment of sowing them in such a manner that 
I might watch their growth from their early stages 
on to maturity. Some broad beans were sown, 
destined to be the victims of the parasite, and when 
they had germinated the seeds of the broom-rape 
were carefully introduced below the surface of the 
soil. In due time there appeared about a dozen 
spikes of the OrobancJie, clustering round the broad 
bean plant, which was then two feet high and already 
bearing pods. 

The seeds of the parasite must have germinated 
and in some mysterious way discovered the presence 
of the roots upon which it was their nature to grow. 



To the bean root the broom-rape seedling adheres, 
and its stem swells into a bulb, as shown in the 


drawing. Now, having established itself, it has only 
to continue sucking nourishment from its host, grow- 
ing and flourishing, and in the case of this foreign 

1 1 

1 62 tRambles witb IRature Students 

species sending up really handsome spikes of lilac- 
tinted flowers. 

The Rev. Professor G. Henslow, speaking of this 
broom-rape, says, 1 ' A field of beans just outside 
Cairo looked at a distance like some nursery ground 
for gorgeously flowering herbaceous plants in masses, 
as there was more of the broom-rape to be seen 
than beans. It consisted of tall spikes some four 
feet in height, densely covered with white, yellow, 
and lavender-coloured blossoms of different shades. 

' It would make a splendid herbaceous border plant, 
of course associated with some broad bean plants for 
it to live upon. By dumb show I pointed out 
to an Arab the necessity of cutting them down, 
pointing to some dead bean plants. He only 
shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, <( Kismet,' 
and then walked away.' 

I confess it was a little sad to watch my bean 
plant, thus preyed upon, diminishing in vigour and 
at last dying a victim to scientific experiment. I 
could not but speculate as to the use and intention 
of the creation of these parasitic plants. I have 
arrived at no satisfactory conclusion, and must leave it 
as a problem for my readers to solve. 

1 The Gardeners Chronicle, July 30, 1898. 


1 Where are the songs of Spring ? Ay, where are they ? 
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, 
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue ; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies ; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn ; 
Hedge-crickets sing ; and now with treble soft 
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, 
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. 1 




|N object of much pleasure to me in my 
hot-house is a fine specimen of the 
Egyptian papyrus reed, with stems 
fully eight feet high, growing with 
remarkable luxuriance and beauty. I never look 
upon its graceful flowering plumes without being 
reminded of a chain of interesting associations. 

The infant Moses was laid amongst these so- 
called 'bulrushes/ which then grew along the 
margin of the Nile. The ' ark ' in which the child 
was laid was formed of papyrus stems, and the 
small cradle would be readily concealed amongst 
'the flags by the river's brink.' 

This plant is now wholly extinct in Egypt, 
although it still grows abundantly in the marshes 
of the White Nile in Nubia. A verse in Isaiah, 
in the revised edition (chapter xviii. 2) shows 
that in ancient days even boats were made of 
papyrus, and a modern traveller speaks of the plant 
being still used by the Abyssinians for the same 

It has lately been discovered that mummy cases 
were sometimes constructed of old papyrus rolls, 
and many very ancient and valuable writings have 


166 IRambles wttb Mature Students 

been obtained by soaking these coffins in water 
until, with the exercise of great patience and care, 
the original strips of papyrus could be separated 
and then pieced together, so that the writing can 
be deciphered. 

Many years ago I listened to an address by Mr. 


John MacGregor, in which he gave a vivid description 
of his explorations in Palestine, and mentioned his 
discovery of an immense extent of papyrus growing 
in the upper reaches of the Jordan. The snow 
melting from Mount Hermon trickles down in 
small streams, forming marshes five miles in length 
and about three miles broad, closely filled with 



papyrus stems from eleven to fourteen feet in 
height. Such a reedy swamp would have been 
impenetrable but for a narrow channel winding 
through it, which enabled Mr. MacGregor to make 
his way with the Rob Roy canoe until he reached 
the open waters of Lake Merom. 

After examin- 
ing some frag- 
ments of ancient 
papyri, I felt 
sure that it 
would not be 
impossible to 
make paper of 
the same kind 
from my own 
specimen, and 
this was the way 
in which I suc- 
ceeded in the 
manufacture. I 
cut a stem eight 
feet long into 
lengths of about 
six inches, and 
with a sharp 

knife sliced off the green rind from its three sides, 
and cut the remaining white pith into very thin 

Having a hot iron ready at hand, I quickly laid 
the strips of pith side by side, each a little 
overlapping the other, on a sheet of white paper, 
and when it was covered I placed another layer 
upon it at right angles to the first layer. With a 


1 68 iRambles witb Mature Students 

sheet of paper to keep the iron from adhering to 
the pith, I pressed the two thicknesses of pith 
firmly together until they were closely united. In 
about a quarter of an hour, by repeated ironing, 
I found I had made a piece of light grey material 
exactly resembling the ancient papyrus which was 


my pattern. The sap of the plant appears to 
possess an adhesive quality, so that no gum is 
required, the action of heat being sufficient to make 
the strips unite into a flat even surface, suitable 
to be written upon with a quill and ordinary 

In olden times the young succulent shoots of 

October 169 

this reed appear to have been used as an article 
of diet, and when stewed and served with a rich 
kind of sauce it was reckoned, by both Jews and 
Egyptians, as a table delicacy. 

As I have already remarked, the chief interest 
which centres in this plant is the fact of its great 
antiquity. In the British Museum we may see 
papyrus rolls which were inscribed three thousand 
years ago. The key to the ancient languages 
has been discovered, and the learned in such 
matters can decipher that which was penned 
in the days when the Israelites were toiling in 
Egypt, and many deeply-interesting facts concerning 
Scripture history have in this way been brought to 


' The flowery leaf 

Wants not its soft inhabitants. Secure 
Within its winding citadel, the stone 
Holds multitudes. But chief the forest boughs, 
That dance, unnumbered to the playful breeze, 
The downy orchard, and the melting pulp 
Of mellow fruit, the nameless nations feed 
Of evanescent insects.' 

The pretty wild-rose gall, popularly known as 
Robin's pincushion, or Bedeguar gall (R/wdites 
rosce), shows itself very conspicuously in the hedges 
at this season. 

It is like a bunch of finely divided green 
moss-sprays, brightly tinged with crimson, and 
is produced by a small four-winged fly, Cynips 

IRambles witf3 nature Students 

Early in June this glossy black fly lays its eggs 
in young briar-shoots ; the presence of these eggs 

interrupts the flow of the 
sap, and woody tissue begins 
to form around the eggs. 

If we take a gall of this 
kind in an early stage of 
growth and cut it in half, 
we shall find several little 
cells, each containing a small 
white grub. These larva; 
continue to grow to their 
full size, and then remain 
quiescent until the following 
spring, when they change 
to chrysalides. The perfect 
fly emerges when the days 
become warm and sunny. 

The oak tree is victimised by gall-flies innumerable. 
They lay their eggs in its leaves, branches, flowers, 
and roots, no part of the tree being exempt from 
their attacks. 



Mr. Stephens, a great authority upon insects, 
says that there are nearly two thousand species of 
insects which prey upon the oak tree, either as 

ctober 171 

gall-flies depositing their eggs in its substance, or 
as caterpillars feeding upon its leaves. 

(Natural size). 

A collection of oak-galls would therefore show 
a great variety of forms, and might profitably occupy 
our attention this autumn. 

172 IRambles witb IRature Students 

I have been picking up leaves entirely covered 
with bright crimson spangle-galls. Such leaves lie 
on the ground all through the winter whilst the 
grubs are maturing ; and if we find some of these 
leaves about the end of February, and keep them 
in a bottle, slightly moistening them from day to day, 


the flies will hatch, and we can see for ourselves 
Cynips longipennis, the exact species that has caused 
the spangle-gall. 

The large round gall shown in the illustration 
is the product of a species of Cynips, and is 
beautifully coloured with a pinkish crimson on 
one side. 

ctobet 173 

The smaller galls on the oak flowers are in an 
early stage ; they grow to the size of red currants, 
and then drop to the ground, the flies hatching 
out of then? in the following spring. 


The oak foliage has now turned a soft golden 
brown, which sheds a kind of sunlight glow over 


the landscape. The squirrels are extremely busy 
collecting and storing acorns for their winter food ; 
and so carefully do they secure not only acorns 
but nuts and beechmast, that in a week or two 
it will be almost impossible to find any woodland 
fruits beneath the trees. 

174 IRambles with IRature Students 

This is the best season of the year to study our 
native oaks, because we can easily identify them 
by their acorns. We possess in reality but one 
indigenous species, known as Quercus robur, but 
there are two varieties, Quercus bedunculata, which 


has acorns on much longer stalks than Quercus robur, 
and Quercus sessiliflora, which produces its acorns 
clustered together upon the twigs without any stalks. 
Its leaves are also broader and more closely grouped 

The deeply-cut leaves of the imported Turkey 

October 175 

oak, Quercus cerris, and its charmingly mossy- 
cupped acorns readily distinguish it from our 
English species. 

A tree of this kind stands on my lawn, and every 
autumn, for some years past, on a special day, when 


the rooks by instinct have found out that the fruit 
is ripe, they come from my rookery in flocks to 
feast upon the acorns and carry them away, as I 
believe, to some hiding-places of their own. 

All day long the great birds are winging their 
way to and fro, cawing and rejoicing over the spoil, 
until they leave the tree entirely stripped, with 

1 76 IRambles witb IRature Students 

only a carpet of empty acorn-cups strewing the 
ground beneath. 

In times of scarcity we should do well to imitate 
the squirrels and store up our acorn crop, for 
when dried, roasted, and ground into flour a not 
unpalatable kind of coffee can be made of acorn 
kernels. I can speak from experience, for some 
years ago I had this coffee made, and used it as 
a tonic beverage. I cannot say it had the aroma 
or flavour of true coffee, but it made a fair substitute 
for it, and it is believed to be wholesome and 


Towards the close of this month I always find 
my great cedars covered with their cone-shaped 
male catkins. I see now that they are just ready 
to shed clouds of pollen ; but, plentiful as these 
blossoms are, it is the rarest thing to be able to 
discover any but male catkins ; the female ones 
appear almost invariably to grow upon the upper 
branches, where they are quite inaccessible. 

For fifteen years I carefully watched for these 
small cones, wishing to observe them in their early 
stage, but failed to find a specimen until a few years 
ago, when one of my cedars obligingly produced 
some fruit on the lower branches. The drawing 
will show my readers the two kinds of blossom. The 
yellow pollen-bearing catkins drop off in a few 
weeks, whilst the fertilised cones remain, and 
gradually increase in size until they are easily to 



be discerned upon the branches, and are of an 
exquisite pale tint like shaded sea-green velvet. 

Cedar catkins are fertilised only by the wind, 
which carries the pollen from one blossom to the 
other. The buoyancy of the pollen-grains is much 
aided by two little bladders with which each grain 
is furnished, and which can be easily seen by the 
aid of a microscope. 

The cones are borne on the 
upper side of the horizontal 
branches, and are not fully 
ripe until the autumn of the 
third year. They do not then 
fall off like other fir-cones, but 
the scales and seeds become 
loosened, and drop to the 

Of these grand mountain 
trees there are three species, 
Deodar of the Himalayas, the 
Cedrus atlantica of the Atlas 
range in North Africa, and 
the cedar of Scripture, of 
which, besides many smaller 

ones, twelve patriarchal specimens may still be seen 
on Mount Lebanon. These grow at an elevation 
of about 6000 feet above the sea, their trunks 
measuring from forty to forty-seven feet in circum- 
ference at the base. 

It is said that many years ago a Frenchman, who 
was travelling in the Holy Land, found a little 
seedling among the cedars of Lebanon, which he 
wished to bring away as a memorial of his travels. 
He took it up carefully, and for want of a better 



1 78 IRambles witb IRature Students 

flower-pot he planted it in his hat, where he kept and 
tended it. The voyage was stormy and tedious, 
so that the supply of fresh water fell short, and only 
half a glass a day could be spared for each traveller. 
The little tree was allowed its share of even this 
scanty allowance, and although the traveller suffered 
from his self-denial, the little tree flourished, and 
had attained the height of six inches when the 
vessel arrived in port. 

At the custom-house the officers thought the hat 
must surely contain some valuables on which duty 
ought to be paid, and it needed much earnest 
pleading on the part of the traveller to induce 
them to spare the cherished seedling. 

Eventually it was allowed to pass through 
unharmed. It was then taken to Paris, and found 
a place in the Jardin des Plantes. In the course of 
years it grew into a noble tree. It lived on for over 
a century, until, sad to relate, the beautiful tree had to 
be cut down to make way for a railroad. 

It would be quite possible to grow our own cedars 
with the exercise of patience. A seed I planted out 
of a cone from Lebanon remained dormant for twelve 
months in the earth before the young plant made 
its appearance. Probably if the seeds were soaked 
in water for a few days before they are planted, it 
might tend to hasten the process of germination. 


The capsules of the cyclamen are now opening ; 
they are curiously spotted inside, and look like small 
brown flowers. The twisted stem is coiled around 

October 179 

the capsule, and keeps it closed until the seed is 
perfectly ripe. Then it uncoils, the segments curl 
backwards, and the seeds are allowed to drop out 
and sow themselves. 

The iris, the datura, and a large number of other 
plants produce capsules which open their valves when 
ripe and allow their seeds to escape, and this is 
perhaps the simplest mode of liberating ripe seed ; 


but at this season, when so many plants are producing 
their fruit, we shall find it quite interesting to note 
some of the many other curious modes by which 
seeds are dispersed. 

We observed in the spring the fruits of the 
sycamore, maple, and hornbeam, which are furnished 
uith a samara, or thin membrane, so that the 
autumn breezes may bear them flying through the 
air, and sow them far away from the parent tree. 

The wild balsam affords a good example of 

i8o iRambles witfo Mature Stufcents 

dispersion by clastic force. The valves curl up 
and jerk the seeds in all directions. 

Heartsease, woodsorrel, wild geranium, and many 
other plants scatter their seeds in the same manner. 

The wild pimpernel has a special way of sowing 
itself by dropping half of its cup-shaped capsule. 
This, being a common field flower, can easily be 
found and examined. 

Almost all such flowers as the dandelion, goats- 
beard, succory, belonging to the extensive order of 
Compositae, have seeds more or less feathered, so that 


they may be wind-dispersed ; but, being so common, 
I need not describe these in detail. 

A tree which grows on a mountain in the Cape 
Colony is known as the silver tree (Leucadendron 
argenteuvi], from its leaves and cone being so thickly 
covered with shining white hairs that they look as 
if they were made of silver. The leaves hang 
vertically, exposing only their edges to the sun ; 
consequently the trees afford but little shade, only 
a criss-cross of fine lines of shadow is thrown upon 
the ground. I mention this tree because its cone 
produces a remarkable kind of seed. Reference to 

October 181 

the plate will show the four feathery plumes by 
which the wind wafts the seed through the air. 
They rise out of the dry capsule, and from it the 
heavy seed hangs at the end of a slender thread, 
the whole arrangement being somewhat like a small 
parachute. The silvery cone is a beautiful object 
in itself, and when fully ripe, one of these curious 
seeds emerges from under each of the overlapping 

The capsules of the poppy, campanula, and snap- 
dragon allow their seeds to escape through small 
pores which, being highly sensitive to dryness and 


moisture, open and shut according to the changes 
in the weather. We can easily observe these small 
trapdoors under the upper rim of the poppy-head, 
and in the other plants I have mentioned the 
openings are in the upper part of each segment 
of the capsule. The columbine has a five-pouched 
seedpod opening at one end when ripe, and bending 
down to sow its contents. 

Space will not allow me to notice the many other 
modes by which plants perpetuate their species, 
some by hooked seeds which cling to passing animals, 
some, like the cotton-grass, by very long silky hairs. 
Others, and perhaps the most curious of all, are 

1 82 Gambles vvitb IRature Students 

those highly sensitive to moisture and dryness, which 
by expanding and contracting are enabled to creep 



along the ground. All these will afford pleasant 
hours of study to those who like to investigate nature's 
secrets, as seen in the commonest things which lie 
about our daily path. 


The pale descending year, yet pleasing still, 
A gentler mood inspires ; for now the leaf 
Incessant rustles from the mournful grove, 
Oft startling such as, studious, walk below, 
And slowly circles through the waving air. 
Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields ; 
And shrunk into their beds, the flowery race 
Their sunny robes resign.' 




T is quite worth while to observe the 
characteristic variations of form in the 
feet of birds ; they will be found to 
be wonderfully adapted to the kind of 
life they live and to the food they have to subsist 

When I chance to find a dead bird, I usually 
retain its feet, attaching them to a card and allowing 
them to dry slowly within the fender. In this way I 
have made a small collection, which includes specimens 
from the various divisions of the bird kingdom, and 
very useful I often find it for purposes of reference. 

Eagles, hawks and owls (all of which are known 
as raptorial or seizing-birds) are provided with 
strong, sharp claws, with which they clutch and 
kill the animals and birds they feed upon. 

A glance at the claws of the owl shows us that 
the grip of such a foot cannot fail to squeeze 
to death a small rat or mouse. An owl swallows 
a mouse whole, and next day the bones and fur 
are thrown up in the form of a small grey pellet ; 
the amazing number of bones to be found in these 
pellets goes far to prove the value of owls as rat 
and mouse destroyers. 


1 86 Gambles witb mature Stu&ents 

The water- rail and moorhen appear to be links 
between land and water birds ; they can swim 
short distances by means of a membrane on each 
side of the toes, but their lives are mostly spent 
in threading their way through the sedgy herbage 
which grows on the margin of ponds and lakes. 

The true swimmers (natatores) 
include all such birds as swans, 
geese and ducks ; we can see 
how easily they propel them- 
selves in any direction by means 
of their webbed feet, which 
so admirably fit them for 
their aquatic life. 

I possess the 
feet of a curious 
foreign bird, the 
jacana, which fre- 
quents Brazilian 
lakes, where 
abound, and by 

means of its long 
OWL'S FOOT. ., ,, 

toes it can walk 

upon the leaves and find its insect diet. 

The light weight of the bird is spread over a 
considerable area, so that it is borne up on the 
leaf-covered surface of the water much in the same 
way that a traveller in Arctic regions is supported 
on his journeys by means of his wide-spreading 

A ptarmigan affords us a specimen of a bird 
well protected against the effects of cold by having 
its feet thickly furred to the very claws. Its plumage 



is pure white in 
winter, so as not to 
be readily seen upon 
the snowy ground, 
but in summer the 
feathers change to 
grey and brown, 
colours which make 
the bird inconspicu- 
ous amongst grey 
rocks and heather. 

Some trumpeter 
pigeons 1 kept at 
one time had oddly 
feathered feet ; one 
could not imagine 
for what purpose the 
feathers grew 
along the toes ; 
they seemed 
useful nor 
al; I 

came to the conclu- 
sion that they must 
be a freak of nature, 
and one of the 
results of domesti- 

Grain-eating birds 
{gallinaceous}, such 
as turkeys, fowls, 
pheasants, and a 
large number of other 
species, are provided 
with very strong 
feet armed with 
horny toe-nails, to 
enable them to 
scratch up the 
earth in order to 
find their food. 
The foot of a 
fowl will 
afford us 
an ex- 
a m pie 
of this 
class of 


i88 iRambles witfo IRature Stufceuts 

I would call attention to the long claw of the 
lark, the use of which was, I believe, a puzzle to 


naturalists, until it was discovered that by its means 


the bird was enabled to grasp and carry away its 
eggs when any danger threatened their safety. 

"November 189 

The lark's nest being built upon the ground is 



exposed to many dangers, and when the mower's 

scythe has laid it 
bare, the mother-bird 
has been observed 
carrying away the 
eggs one by one in 
her long-clawed foot. 
It has also been 
suggested that the 
hind claw may tend 


HIND CLAW. of alighting on the 

190 IRambles witb mature Students 

ground from a great height ; in either case it offers 
an interesting instance of provision for a bird's 
special need. 

When we reflect that there are more than ten 
thousand species of birds, inhabiting every variety 
of situation and fitted to every climate, we may 
form some idea of the need of adaptation in their 

In these slight remarks on birds' feet, I only 
attempt to draw my readers' attention to a very 
wide subject, which they may like to study further 
from time to time as opportunity may occur. 


A very miserable fate is now overtaking some of 
our common house-flies. If they happen to come 
in contact with a very minute fungus known as 
Empusa musct, one of the spores throws out a tube 
and penetrates the body of the fly, where it will 
grow and multiply its cells until 
it has gradually eaten out the 
interior of the insect. 

I found a specimen of one 
of these victims on the window- 
pane to-day. The fly's body 
was swollen and fixed to the 

FLY KILLED BY FUNGUS. . ,. , . , . 

glass ; the wretched insect was 

dead, the fungus was showing on the outside of its 
body, and all around it the white spores lay like 
a misty halo upon the glass. 

The fungus has the power of throwing its spores 
some little distance off, and if one of them falls 

November 191 

upon a living fly the same process is again re- 
peated, and before long the victim dies this miserable 

The caterpillar of the common white butterfly 
is frequently attacked, and dies in the same way 
when seized upon by a species of minute fungus. 


The shell of the common nautilus, when divided 
lengthways, affords a beautiful example of delicate 
structure. It is the dwelling of a species of cuttle- 
fish found in the Indian Ocean. 


The creature lives only in the upper compartment 
of its shell, whilst below it arc thirty-six exquisitely 
graduated air-chambers lined with mother-of-pearl. 

192 IRambles wttb Iftature Stufcente 

This cuttle-fish has numerous tentacles or feelers, 
on which it sometimes crawls like a snail at 
the bottom of the sea. It is a deep-sea dweller, 
but at times it rises to the surface, and swims 
through the water by drawing in air and then 
violently ejecting it, thus progressing backwards by 
a series of jerks. The shell is as hard and smooth 
as porcelain, and is marked outside by a series of 
dark brown wavy lines. 

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his beautiful poem 
The Chambered Nautilus, draws a delightful lesson 
from the formation of this shell. 

'Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, 

As the swift seasons roll, 

Leave thy low-vaulted past ! 
Let each new temple, nobler than the last, 
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, 

Till thou at length art free, 
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea.' 

Another species, known as the paper nautilus, has 
a pure white and exquisitely fragile exterior, in 
form resembling the common nautilus, but without 
any chambers inside. Indeed, instead of being a 
solid and polished substance, its shell is of an 
extremely delicate and thin material, furrowed into 
long wavy wrinkles. 

For ages this shell has been represented, as in 
the accompanying drawing, sailing along on the 
surface of the sea like a fairy bark, with two tiny 
sails uplifted to catch the wind. It was said to 
have given to man the idea of navigating the ocean ; 
Aristotle thus described it. Pope writes, ' Learn of 
the nautilus to sail.' Montgomery and other poets 

fftowmbet 193 

allude to its being seen thus floating on the sea ; 
but, alas, the rude hand of science has brushed 
away the charming poetic fancy, and we are told 
that the two flattened membranes, which were 
supposed to be sails, are only used for the prosaic 


purpose of secreting calcareous matter, in order to 
repair the shell when injured. 

We do not readily part with such a charming 
vision as the poet thus describes : 

' Light as a flake of foam upon the wind, 
Keel upwards, from the deep emerged a shell 
Shaped like the moon ere half her orb is filled. 
Fraught with young life, it righted as it rose, 
And moved at will along the yielding water. 
The native pilot of this little bark 
Put out a tier of oars on either side ; 
Spread to the wafting breeze a two-fold sail, 
And mounted up, and glided down the billow, 
In happy freedom, pleased to feel the air, 
And wander in the luxury of light.' 

Pelican Island, by MONTGOMERY. 

One could wish to be a fairy watching this little 
skiff come towards one across a halcyon sea ! 


194 IRambles witfo IRature Students 


It is rather difficult to imagine for what purpose 
seeds of certain plants have been created with such 
a strong resemblance to insects, shells, twigs, and 
other objects. In the drawing, a land shell {Helix 
Lapicida) is shown together with the seed of Medicago 


MEDICAGO HELIX. (Natural size). 

helix. It will be seen that the one is a counterpart 
of the other. The curly seed of another species 
of Medicago instantly reminds one of the large green 
caterpillars which abound in cabbage plants, and 
whose habit it is to curl up the moment they are 

The seeds ot many plants strongly resemble 
beetles, and others are like hairy spiders. We have 
already noticed the bird's-foot trefoil as one of 
these mimicking plants, and many others might 
be mentioned. It may be that birds, deceived by 
the appearance of these seeds, take them for 
insects, and finding they have been mistaken drop 
the seeds at a distance from the parent plant, 
and thus ensure their dispersal into fresh soil and 



As we pursue our nature studies, we cannot fail 
to be struck by the fact that there exists all around 
us curious hidden lives of creatures unknown to us. 
These are only revealed when, by chance, our 
attention is called to some trace left behind 
them which excites our curiosity. Then, indeed, 
investigation may often lead to interesting dis- 



We may frequently find snail shells on hedge- 
banks with no living snail 
inhabitant, but half filled 
with dry clay. Any one 
might suppose these had 
become thus filled by 
accident, but if we take 
the shells home and place 
them in a box with muslin 
or net over the top, we 
shall find that specimens NEST OF BEE IN SNAIL SHELL 
of the mason bee (Osmia <*/./*). 

aurulentd) will in due time hatch out of the 
mud-cells in the snail shell. It is the habit of 
this bee to choose an empty shell as a cradle for 
her young. The Osmia collects little pellets of 
mud, and with it she forms cells to contain her 
eggs and food for the grubs which will hatch out 
of them. 

The mother-bee carries out this arrangement in 
summer, and leaves her nursery to itself; winter 
passes by, and in the following spring the young 
bees emerge from the snail shell to begin life on 

196 IRambles witb nature Students 

their own account. Their instinct teaches them 
to do exactly as their unseen parent did, and 
so they perpetuate their species in a similar 

In the angles of brickwork we may often see 
a small mass of grey mud, which looks as if it 
might have been thrown there by a passer-by. 
We have only to investigate with a, penknife and 
remove a portion of the mud wall, and we shall 
find there also is a hidden life history. 

A small species of wasp forms its cells in the 
angle, and covers them with grey mud, which 
hardens and protects her eggs through the frosts 
of winter, so that in the coming summer her 
young will come out in safety and begin their life 

I was much interested this year in a dwelling- 
place which happened to be new to me, and may 
possibly be so also to my readers. A minute 
fragment of a leaf was swinging at the end of an 
invisible thread depending from an oak branch. 
Something led me to examine it, and I found it 
was a cone-shaped dwelling inhabited by a lively 
little caterpillar. I could hardly believe my eyes, 
so minute was the whole thing, and yet so 
perfect Evidently the tent-dweller knew what he 
was about, and was carrying out his life-destiny 
in thus descending from the oak tree to the 

The case was about the size of the capital letter 
I on this page ; it was formed of atoms of oak 
leaf glued together. The caterpillar in his house 
careered about on the surface of an oak leaf where 
I had placed him, and when he grew a little fatigued 

November 197 

by his journeying, he came to anchor for the night 
by fixing his tent in some way firmly to the surface 
of the leaf. I believe this small specimen was the 
larva of one of the very minute species of moths 
called Tineas. 

We can hardly fail to notice that some of the 


leaves of such shrubs as honeysuckle, bramble 
snowberry, and other species have curious intricate 
patterns traced upon them ; and we may have 
speculated as to the cause of this. Let us gather 
a bramble leaf such as that shown in the drawing, 
and we shall be able to trace a life-history begun 
and ended in that one leaf. 

198 IRambles wttb IFlature Students 

A very minute moth lays its eggs in the leaf 
in early summer, and the grub which comes out 
of it mines its way between the fibre and the outer 
skin of the leaf, feeding, as it proceeds, upon the 
green substance it finds there. The mark that it 
makes is at first like a fine white thread, but as 
the larva grows its tunnel increases in size until the 
grub is full-grown ; then it emerges and falls to 
the ground, changes into a chrysalis in the earth, 
and remains there until the following summer, when 
the moth hatches, and the life-history begins over 
again. In the drawing there are the tunnels of two 
of these leaf-miners shown, and the gradual increase 
in size can easily be traced. 

There are, I believe, many hundred species of 
these exceedingly minute moths, each one choosing 
some special plant in which to deposit its eggs. 
The perfect insects are in some cases extremely 
beautiful, like little jewels adorned with gold and 
silver fringes. 

I have chosen these few specimens of 'hidden 
lives ' simply to stimulate observation ; similar cases 
exist in every department of nature, arid will amply 
repay careful study. 


' A winter such as when birds die 
In the deep forests, and the fishes lie 
Stiffened in the translucent ice, which makes 
Even the mud and slime of the warm lakes 
A wrinkled clod, as hard as brick ; and when 
Among their children, comfortable man 
Gather about great fires, and yet feel cold ; 
Alas ! then, for the homeless beggar old.' 




[HE hollies are reflecting the bright 
morning sunshine which glistens on 
their polished leaves. 

These are, as far as 1 know, the 
only trees which have sharply spiked leaves on the 
lower branches only, to defend the foliage from 
the attacks of browsing cattle. Higher up out of 
reach, the leaves are perfectly smooth and unarmed, 
resembling those of the camellia. It is difficult to 
believe such differing leaves can belong to the 
same tree. 

Southey's well-known lines refer to this peculiarity 
in the holly leaves. 

' O reader ! hast thou ever stood to see 

The Holly Tree? 
The eye that contemplates it well perceives 

Its glossy leaves, 

Ordered by an Intelligence so wise 
As might confound the Atheist's sophistries. 

Below a circling fence, its leaves are seen 

Wrinkled and keen ; 
No grazing cattle through their prickly round 

Can reach to wound; 

But, as they grow where nothing is to fear, 
Smooth and unarmed the pointed leaves appear. 

202 iRambles wltb nature Students 

I love to view these things with curious eye. 

And moralise; 
And in this wisdom of the Holly Tree 

Can emblems see, 

Wherewith perchance to make a pleasant rhyme, 
One which may profit in the after-time. 


Thus, though abroad perchance I might appear 

Harsh and austere; 
To those who on my leisure would intrude 

Reserved and rude : 

Gentle at home amid my friends I'd be, 
Like the high leaves upon the Holly Tree.' 


As the ground is frozen, and all nature seems 
asleep at this wintry season, we must defer our 



out-of-door rambles and go into my museum for 
some otoliths for to-day's study. 

The word sounds like something very scientific 
and out of the way, and yet, without knowing it, 
these objects have been constantly upon our 
dinner-plates, for they are little snow-white bones 
to be found in the heads of haddock, whiting, 
gurnard, and cod. How these little stone-like 
bodies assist the hearing of fishes is, I believe, not 
very clearly known, but that is supposed to be 
their use in the economy of the fish. 



One exists in each lobe of the brain, so that if 
we wish to find them we must completely divide 
the head of a whiting, when boiled, and there 
hidden on either side we shall discover the otolith. 
It appears to be quite unattached to the skull, and 
simply lies in its cavity to aid in the conveyance 
of sound to the fish's brain. 

I may mention a use to which I have put these 
ear-bones with a rather good result. 

Having a store of rose-beetle wings and otoliths, 
I resolved to decorate a banner screen with them 
in this fashion. I traced, on a piece of rich dark 
green satin, a flowing design of jasmine sprays. 

204 IRambles witb IRature Students 


With fine white silk I tacked on sets of five 
otoliths starwise, each star to represent a jasmine 

December 205 

flower, while the beetle wings did duty for the 
leaves. Each otolith and beetle-wing was edged 
round with fine gold braid, which kept them firmly 
in place, and also formed the connecting stems. 
The beetle wings had to be pierced with a very 
small needle and each sewn on separately with 
fine green silk. The ear-bones will not admit of 
piercing, so two stitches of white silk across either 
end attached them firmly to the satin. 

The plate will give an idea of the effect, which 
is remarkably good, and my rather original banner 
screen has, I must say, been much admired. 

Rose-beetles are not usually to be found in any 
number, but an even better result may be obtained 
by Indian beetle-wings, which are sold at all 
Berlin-wool shops. 

The otoliths must of course be saved up from 
our daily repast until we have sufficient for the 
purpose : the ear-bones of the haddock are, I think, 
the most suitable for this novel fancy-work. 

To add a little varied colour to my screen, I 
embroidered a few butterflies, copied from nature, 
in coloured silks and introduced them with good 
effect amongst the jasmine sprays. 

The screen is made up with old gold cord and 
tassels, and lined with silk of the same colour. 


I have made an acquaintance more curious than 
agreeable, in the shape of the destructive orange-scale 
insect. I find it constantly appearing upon the stem 
and leaves of a small seedling orange tree which I 


IRambles witb mature Students 

have been growing from a pip. Every few weeks 
brown oval scales have to be scraped off the small 
tree, else its health would be impaired, for these 
apparently insignificant things are really live creatures, 
each of them possessing six minute legs and a kind 
of beak with which it bores into the stem and sucks 
the sap of the plant. These scale insects are a 
serious annoyance to gardeners, and give rise to an 
immense amount of trouble, for they multiply 
rapidly, and when once a plant is infested 
with them there seems no remedy but 
washing carefully each individual leaf, or 
else syringing the entire plant with some 
poisonous liquid. 

The life-history of the various scale 
insects is not fully known, but in most 
cases the male insect is a minute fly ; the 
small tortoise-like brown atom which ad- 
heres to the stem and leaves being the 

There are many English species, and 
PALM SCALE, unfortunately in importing foreign plants 
we are apt also to import new kinds of 
scale insects which find a congenial home in our 
hothouses. The palm scale is one of the most con- 
spicuous, and if we remove one of these from the 
under side of a palm leaf in autumn we may, with 
a lens, discern about fifty white eggs within the 
brown shell, left there by the dead scale insect, ready 
to hatch in due time and perpetuate her species. 
On the fruit of both oranges and apples we may 
often find the mussel scales (Aspidiotus conchiformis). 
At the first glance we should take them to be 
mere brown specks, but the exact form of the 



mussel shell shows 

that they are true 

scale insects. As long 

ago as the year 1518 

a kind of scale was 

observed upon cactus 

plants in Mexico 

( Cossus cacti ). It was 

found to contain a 

red colouring matter, 

which forms the basis 

of the rich carmine 

used by water-colour 

painters, and it also 

yields the cochineal of commerce, so much employed 

m dyeing and in various arts. 


(Much magnified). 

y/^ /"^^-?^^> 

f * . 

An Indian scale insect (Cossus lacca) deposits a 
ish waxy substance upon the twigs and branches 

208 tRambles witb 1Ratut 4 e Students 

of trees : this substance is called stick-lac, and is 
largely used in the manufacture of sealing-wax and 
varnish. So that while we look with disfavour upon 
the insect plagues of this species which infest our 
greenhouses, we may at least recollect that they 
possess foreign relatives who have a certain claim 
upon our gratitude. 


A spider's web empearled by hoar frost is indeed 
'a thing of beauty.' To-day every tree branch, 
bush, and spray, is seen to be hung with these jewelled 
webs, even the lawn is covered with them, and one 
realises that flies live in a very world of snares 
unseen by us until the frost reveals them. There 
really seems to be a spider fitted to every situation 
in life. 

In our houses reside the tegenarias, those black, 
long-legged, swift running creatures which are the 
betes noires of nervous people, but which, notwith- 
standing, are full of curious ways and instincts, as 
I can vouch for, seeing I kept one as a ' pet ' for 
more than a year. 

I watched with interest its making silken tunnels, 
laying its bag of eggs in a corner of the box it 
resided in, and concealing it by sticking all over 
it the legs and wings of the flies it had fed upon, 
until the egg nursery looked only like a bit of old 
spider's web. 

Another species of spider haunts our window 
sills. It makes no web, but catches flies by 
lying in wait and springing suddenly upon them ; 

2>ecembei 4 209 

it is called zebra, from its lovely stripes and 

In pine trees we may find a spider of the most 
vivid green colour weaving small webs to entrap 
flies, and in some hidden corner it places a little 
mass of brilliant yellow silk which contains its 
precious store of eggs. 

On the surface of ponds spiders may be seen 
running swiftly to and fro. One species elects to 
reside upon a floating leaf, and on this little raft 
it must lead rather a precarious life driven about with 
every gust of wind. 

The most curious of the aquatic spiders is the 
one which dives below the surface, carrying with 
it a supply of air, with which it fills a silken bag 
it has woven amongst the weeds growing at the 
bottom of the pond. In this small balloon it lives 
its hidden life, preying upon small water insects, 
only going up to the surface now and again in order 
to renew its supply of needful air. 

In summer we may see thousands of dark brown 
wolf spiders, each carrying a snow-white ball of 
eggs beneath its body, as it threads its way amongst 
the grass stubble where the hay has been cut and 

Even the air has its tenants from this ubi- 
quitous tribe, for in autumn we may often see 
the tiny gossamer spider being wafted along with 
its trail of silken web floating past in the soft 

All these creatures doubtless have their uses, and 
each performs some needful part in the economy 
of nature. 

210 TCambles witb IFlature Students 

There is a tiny dweller in our houses, not 
often seen, because of its nocturnal habits, but 
yet for several reasons it is worth a little careful 

I paid a visit to my kitchen hearth last night 
when the lights had been put out and all was 
quiet. There I saw small silvery creatures, shaped 
like fishes, flitting rapidly about within the kitchen 
fender. These were Lepisince, but when I endeavoured 


to catch them I found it by no means an easy 

I managed it at last by means of a small dusting 
brush and a basin. With a rapid sweep of the brush 
I secured a few specimens, which I felt could only 
be safely retained in a glass globe, their small size 
and agility enabling them to escape from almost any 
kind of box. 

When I examined them by daylight I saw that 
these singular little atoms possess six legs, two 

December 211 

antenna; and three long hairs in the tail. They 
glisten as if formed of silver, and their scales are 
so fine and delicate as to be used as a test for 
microscopic glasses. 

I have kept Lepiswce for months, feeding them 
on cake and sugar until they became tame enough 
to bear being looked at without fear. The Latin 
name, Lepisma sacc/iarina, implies their preference 
for sugar, although they indulge in other rather 
diverse articles of diet, such as sweet cake, wall-paper, 
book bindings and furniture coverings. 

They are often to be seen in damp libraries 
running over books and papers, but they are so small 
that I do not think much injury can be laid to 
their charge. 

The Germans call these little creatures silver fishes, 
a name which accurately describes their appearance. 

THE CHRISTMAS ROSE (Helleborus niger) 

The Christmas rose, which has come to cheer us 
with its snow-white flowers, is an imported plant 
from Southern Europe. Two species of hellebore 
are, however, found growing wild in some parts of 
England, though even they are not believed to be 
truly indigenous. 

Helleborus foetidus is now flowering in my garden, 
and is an interesting and rather showy plant, with 
clusters of green bell-shaped flowers edged with 

Helleborus viridis is found on chalky soils, and has 
also pale green flowers and dark green leaves. 

The species figured in the illustration is Helleborus 


with .nature Students 

purpurascens ; it shows very plainly the curious con- 
struction which is common to all hellebore flowers. 
What we should naturally call. the petals are really 
the leaves of the calyx called sepals which do not 
fall off, but after a time become of a greenish hue, 
and share in the work of leaves by helping to nourish 
the plant. Instead of petals we find tubular nectaries 
filled with honey, which are situated between 

(Showing honey-glands). 

the sepals and the stamens. These tubes are 
attractive to bees from the sweet though poisonous 
liquid they contain, and in thus rifling the nectaries 
they brush the pollen on to the stigma and fertilise 
the flower. 

It seems strange that the Christmas rose with 
its snowy flowers should be called black hellebore, 
but it is so named from its dark root-stock and black 




Some valuable foreign insects in my museum 
have been reduced to a heap of dust by an army 
of microscopic mites, whose life work it is to 
demolish dried specimens, and whether they are 
butterflies, wasps, beetles, or plants seems immaterial 
to them. 





(Acarus domesticus). 

This incident has led me to some slight study 
of the mite family ; and I am surprised to find how 
many species there are, and what widely differing 
kinds of work they are engaged upon. 

We all know the cheese mite, which quickly 
reduces our favourite Stilton to a mass of powder ; 
this much resembles the destroyer of dried butter- 
flies, and both are like a certain other mite which 
abounds in damaged flour. 

214 IRambles witb mature Students 

There is a special mite which eats dried figs ; 
another species prefers dried plums. 

The feathers of the ostrich are infested by a 
minute creature of this kind, and it is also found 
in owls' plumage. 

In the cavities of the bones of skeletons mites 
exist, and old honeycomb is quickly taken in hand 
by them and destroyed. A specimen of the sacred 
beetle of Egypt was sent to me alive some years 
ago. I kept it in health for about sixteen months, 
but so rapidly did mites breed upon its living body 
that every few weeks I had to place it in warm 
water, and with a camel's hair pencil brush away 
dozens of minute specks which I could only just 
discern running over its body. 

Sometimes humble bees are infested in this way, 
and I pick them up in a dying state, apparently 
unable to rid themselves of their tormentors. 

The excessive irritation many persons experience 
after walking in cornfields is due to the harvest- 
mite, which buries itself in the skin and there 
creates acute imflammation and much consequent 

Some years ago I met with another branch of 
the family, and could but marvel at its extraordinary 
labours. A furze bush was apparently wreathed 
in fine white muslin in layers between the branches, 
fold after fold, and upon this gauzy material were 
multitudes of bright red specks careering about. 
Of course I took some specimens home, and I soon 
discovered they were spinning mites (Tetranychus 

There are many species, and it is one of these, 
the so-called 'red-spider/ which does so much 

December 215 

mischief in greenhouses by sucking the juices of 

Birds are sadly worried by a small red mite, 
which lives in the crevices of cages which are not 
kept perfectly clean. The best protection from 
their attacks is a good sponging of the perches 
and every part of the cage with a solution of 
carbolic acid ; this will effectually get rid of the 

I am not attempting to write an essay upon 
mites, or else I might speak of dozens of other 
species, some parasitic upon flies and spiders, and 
others inhabiting ponds and ditches. I have but 
touched upon a few kinds I have happened to 
meet with in daily life. 

The minute creatures evidently have an appointed 
work, which they do secretly and mysteriously, all 
unknown to us, until a suspicious heap of dusty 
fragments shows where this unseen army have 
been encamped. 


Having drawn attention to the feet of birds, as 
affording a clue to the kind of life to which they 
are adapted, I will now try to show how the 
formation of a bird's skull and beak indicates the 
character of the bird, and the kind of food it 
lives upon. 

Ornithology is a very wide subject, seeing that 
there are said to be over ten thousand species of 
birds. These are grouped into about twenty-two 
orders, and of these I have selected four specimens 
to illustrate my remarks. 

216 IRambles witb IRature Students 

An owl's skull, with its curved and sharply-pointed 
beak reveals the fact that the bird is a flesh-eater, 
catching its prey alive. One grip of an owl's claws 
suffices to kill the captured mouse or bird, and then 
the beak tears the prey into fragments. As a matter 


of fact the owl swallows mice whole, but when it 
is kept in a cage and supplied with raw meat, 
we see the powerful beak tearing the flesh to 
pieces, just as an eagle would dismember its living 


The broad, spoon-shaped beak of the duck has 
a lining of horny ridges, which enables the bird to 
mince and prepare its vegetable and fish diet. 

In the skull of the woodcock we may observe 
that the eye orbit is placed far back, so that the 
beak may be plunged up to its base in soft mud, 



where it feels about for the worms on which the 
bird subsists. 

The pheasant is a type of a grain-eating bird, 
the bill being short and powerful, much like that 
of the common fowl. 


It is well to know the difference between what 
are called hard-billed and soft-billed birds, since we 
may desire to bring up some fledgeling, and be in 
doubt as to the food suitable for its needs. If it 
has a beak like the common sparrow, then it is 


hard-billed, and a grain-eating bird. We may be 
sure it will thrive upon some such food as sopped 
brown bread, or a paste made of oatmeal and water. 
If, on the contrary, the beak is slender, like a robin's, 
it is called soft-billed, which is an indication that it 
is an insect-eater. Such young birds must have a 
diet of finely minced raw beef mixed with a little 

218 iRambles wltb mature Students 

sopped brown bread. If my readers will notice, 
either in pictures or at the Zoo, the endless variety 
of form in the beaks of birds, English and foreign, 
they will admire the marvellous adaptation to the 
needs of each bird, from the great pouch of the 
fish-eating pelican, down to the slender curved beak 
which enables the humming-bird to obtain honey 
from tubular blossoms in the Tropics. 





Abele . 


Bibio ..... 


Abraham's Oak . 

. 144 

Birds, feet ot 

w -7 



. I 5 8 

heads of . 


Acherontia atropos 


Bird's-foot trefoil . 



. 176 

Blue Anchor, alabaster at . 


Acrida viridissima 


Bluebottle . . 


Adams, H. G., quoted . 

. 4 8 

Blue-tits .... 


Agaricini . 


Boletus edulis . . 


Alabaster . . . 

. 142 

Bombylius major . . . 


Alder catkins 

. 42 

Broad-bean .... 


Alnus glutinosa . 

. 42 

Bronte, Charlotte, quoted 



. I 5 6 





Bryant quoted . 18, 19, 


Aphrophora spumaria . 

- 95 

Butterflies . . .138, 


Aquatic spiders . 

. 209 

Buxton, fossils at . 


Araucaria . 






Ash .... 

Campanula .... 


Ash-bark beetle . 

. 26 

Canary grass 



. 60 

Cannabis sativa . 


Aspidiotus conchiformis 

. 206 

Capsella-bursa pastoris . 




Capsules of flowers 


Caterpillar dwelling 


Balsam poplar . . 

. 60 

Catkins, tree 40, 60, 63, 91, 


Bats .... 

. 149 

Caverns .... 


Bede quoted 

. 107 

Cedar of Lebanon 


Bee, nest of, in snail shell 

. 195 

Cedrus .... 


Beech, catkins of. 

. 92 

Charlock .... 


seed-leaves of . 


Cheddar Cliffs, cavern at 


Bees ... 45, 

99, 195 

Cheese mites 




Chicory . . . 


. 127 

Flies killed by fungus . 



Christmas rose 

. 211 

Flints . . . .24, 


Cichorium . 

. 125 

Floral clock 


Clare quoted 

30, 95 

Flowering trees . 




Flowers, capsules of 


Claws of birds 

. 185 

Footprints in snow 


Cloth moth . 


Fossils . . .24, 


Coachman fly 

. 70 

Frog-fly . 


Cochineal insect . 

. 207 



Composite . 

. 180 

Frog-spit . 


Coprinus coinatus 


Frost, effects of . 


Corinthian order, origin of 

. 158 

Fuller's teasel 


Cork moth . 


Fungi . 

T r-j 

Cossus . . . . 


. 207 

Fur and feather moth . 

1 JJ 

3 2 

Cow parsnip 

. 123 

Cuckoo-fly . 

. 96 

Cuckoo-spit . 


Galls .... 

1 60 

Cyclamen . 

-7 J 

. 178 

Gladiolus .... 


8 4 

Cynips . . , 

. 169 

Goethe quoted 


Gossamer spider . 


Dandelion . 


Grain-eating birds 

I8 7 


. 179 

Granite .... 


Death's head moth 




Derbyshire caverns 

. 141 

Great green grasshopper 



. 122 

Grey poplar 


Draba verna 


Growing seeds 

1 10 

Dragon-fly . 

. 128 

Dry rot ... 

. I S 6 

Duck skull . 

. 216 

Hard-billed birds 


Dyer quoted 

. 124 

Heads of birds 

2I 5 

Dytiscus marginalis 

. 128 

Heartsease .... 

1 80 

Helix lapidda 



. 118 

Hellebore .... 


Empusa musci 

. 190 

Hemp . 



. 127 

Henslow, Prof. G., quoted . 

1 4/ 

Exoascus carpini . 


Hidden lives 


Hieroglyph for joy 



. 122 

Holly . 

2O I 



Holmes, Dr. O. W., quoted . 


Flax .... 

. 105 

Homer quoted 


Flies in Amber . 

. 118 

Hornbeam . 21, 150, 



Horse-chestnut . 

. 22 

Long-eared bat . . 


. 149 

House fly . 

. 8 5 

Lotus corniculatus 


Hoverer-fly . 

. 102 

Luther, Martin, quoted 


Humble-bee fly . 


Husbandman's tree 

- 77 

Hydnum repandum 


Maned agaric 

. 136 

Mant, Bishop, quoted . 



59, 179 

Ichneumon flies . 

. 103 

Mason bee . 


Ink, home-made . 

. 136 

Mason wasp 

. 196 

Insects and flowers 


Mealworm beetle. 




I^Tcdicd^o hflix 

. IQ4 

Ivy-leaved toad-flax 

. 92 

Megachile centuncularis 

* 7*T 

. IOI 

Merulius lacrymans 

. 156 

Milton quoted 

. 119 

Jacana . . 

. 186 

Mimicry of seeds . 

. 194 

Jasper, red . 

. I2O 


Montgomery quoted 

. i93 


. 186 

Keats quoted . . 

. I6 4 

Morris, Wm., quoted . 

. 98 

Moths, minute . 

31. 198 

Musca domestica . 

. 85 

Lamorna . 

. 121 

Mushrooms . 


Larch seedlings . 

. 90 

Mussel scale insects 

. 206 

Larder fly . 

. 8 7 

Mycelium . 

. 154 

Lark .... 

. 188 

Laurel-leaf glands 


Laurus nob His 



. 191 

Leaf-cutter bee 


Nightingale . 


Leaf-scars . 

. 22 

Notonecta glanca . 

. 127 

Leaves, positions of 


Nuthatch . 


Lemon pips. 

. 112 


. 210 

Lesser celandine . 


Oak, galls of 

. 170 

Leucadendron argenteum 

. 180 

Oaks .... 

. 142 

Liberation of seeds 

. 178 

,, English 


Lime tree seed-leaves . 


Oinophila v.flava 


Linaria cymbalaria 

. 92 

Oolite .... 

. 142 

Linum catharticum 

. 108 

Orange pips 

. 112 

Limim usitatissimum . 

. 105 

Orobanche . 

. 160 

Lombardy poplar . 

. 60 

Orthoclase . 

. 122 




Osmia . . , 99, 195 

Roe-stone . . 


Otoliths .... 


Rossetti quoted . . 4! 


Owls . , .20, 185, 


Rowden, F. A., quoted 


Royal Natural History quoted 


Palestine oaks 


Palm scale .... 


Paper, home-made 


St. John's fly . 


Papyrus . . ... 


St. Mark's fly 


Patmore, Coventry, quoted . 


Salicine . . . . 


Pezizas . . ... 


Samara . 


Phalaris Canarieusis . 


Sanguinaria . 


Pheasant skull 


Sarcophaga carnaria 


Phyllotaxis .... 


Saxifraga tridadylites . 


Pigeons, wild 


Scale insects 


Pimpernel . . 


Scolytus . 


Pinus siicdnifer . . 




Plumule . ... 


Sedum, butterflies in . 




Seed mimicry 




Seedling trees 


Polyporei .... 


Seeds, growing . 


Pope quoted 


,, liberation of 

I 7 8 

Poplar catkins 


Shelley quoted . . . . 


Poppy .... 


Shepherd's purse . 


Populus .... 


Silver fishes 


Pratt, Miss A., quoted . 


tree . 


Ptarmigan .... 


Sitta Europaa 


Pteromalus .... 


Skeleton leaves . 


Pudding-stone . . 


Skulls of birds . 


Pulvinus .... 


Snake-fly . 

1 08 

Snapdragon . 


Querctis . . -144, 


Snow crystals . . . 


Soft-billed birds . 


Ranunculus fuaria 


Southey quoted . 


Raphidia o phi op sis 




Raptorial birds . 


Spiders . 


Red spider .... 


Sponges, fossil 


Rhodites rosie 


Squirrels . 


Rhododendron . . 83, 


Stalactites . 


Rhyssa persuasoria 


Stalagmites . 


Robin's pincushion 


Stick-lac . 


Rocks. . . .119, 


Stonecrop . 





Stones . 

. 119, 141 


Succory . . 

. I2< 

Voles .... 

Swimming birds . 


. 186 

Sycamore . 

5. ?8, 179 

Wasp, mason 

. 196 

Syrian oaks . 

. 144 



Syrphus flnmosus 

. 102 

Water-boatmen . 

. 127 

Water-lion . 

. 129 

Tacamahac . 

. 60 

Water-rail . 

. 186 

Tamarind seeds . 

. 112 

Weeds, use of 

. .36 


. 122 

White flax . 

. 108 

Tegenarias . 

. 208 

White poplar 

. 60 

Tcnebris molitor , 


Whitlow grass 


Tennyson quoted 62, 

75, 82, 158 

Wild balsam 

. 179 

Tetranychus lintearius 

. 214 

,, geranium 

. 180 

Thomson quoted 

. . 184 

,, pimpernel . 

. 180 


. 3i> 196 

,, succory 

. 125 


. . 148 

,, teasel 

. 122 

Toadstools . 


Willow catkins . 

41, 63 

Tree catkins 

. 40 

Witches' brooms . 


seeds . 

. - 57 

Wolf spiders 

. 209 


. 88 

Wood, Rev. J. G., quoted 


Trinity flower 

. 88 

Woodcock skull . 

. 216 

Trumpeter pigeons 

. . 187 

Woodsorrel . 

. 180 

Tsetse fly . 

. 71 

Wood wasp 


Wordsworth quoted 

38, 146 

Upholsterer bee . 

. 101 

Yew .... 

. 62 

Valonia oaks 


Ventriculites . 

. 24 

Zebra spider . . 

. 208 

Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury. 


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